My friends and I took a little hike Saturday. I guess it will be our last hike, well at least for this year. That set me to thinking about this New Year that is just around the corner.
The sentimental Christmas carol “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” may be the theme song for December 24 and 25. But by the 26th, many have changed their tune. It’s now “On The Road Again.
Whether traveling back from a family Christmas gathering, setting off on a snowy or sunny Christmas week vacation, or just returning to the routine of work and daily travel, journeying is a big part of the season called Christmastide, those Twelve Days of Christmas extending from Christmas Eve to Epiphany Eve.
In Matthew 2:13-23, Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus are once again on the move. Having traveled to Bethlehem for Jesus’ birth, Joseph now receives an angelic directive to hit the road again. A Roman decree, the census ordered by Quirinius, had sent the family to Joseph’s home town for a head-count. A dream decree, which unveiled Herod’s death-threat, now spurs the new family out of a familiar homeland and into a strange new land. The angelic warning Joseph discerns in a dream is to journey on a “reverse exodus” to flee to Egypt for refuge and the safety of their newborn child.
Let’s pause here for a moment to let the bitter irony of this directive to sink in. With the future of the Messiah in his hands, Joseph flees from the Jewish Promised Land and returns to the despised regions of Egypt, the land of Hebrew slavery. Why does he take this drastic step? Why does Joseph embark on this “reverse exodus?”
Well, we can’t know from Joseph’s own words. Because Joseph never speaks in the whole Bible. He never says a word. He just does. He’s a man of few words. No, he’s a man of no words. Not one grunt or sigh, even. He’s only a man of action. He does. And what he does is trust God.
Joseph so trusted the Spirit, and the Spirit’s speaking through God’s forgotten language of dreams, that he drops everything and reverses course on a dream, which he received as a personal word from God. Now let’s be clear. Joseph didn’t receive a burning bush or a pillar of fire by night or a cloud by day. All Joseph got was a dream. But in that dream Joseph heard a message, trusted the messenger, and whole-heartedly about-faced without qualms or questions.
Two chapters later in Matthew, Jesus embarks on his public ministry. Here is his declaration that separated truth from falsehood: “One shall not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Mt.4:4).
That verse has become a cliché, but the cliché needs to be clicked and poked for a moment. Notice what Jesus says here: we are promised something more than a staple. We are promised a stable. Each one of us. We are promised more than bread, the staple of life. We are promised a stable in which God speaks to each and every one of us.
The mouth of God wants to kiss the soul of every one of you. You are God-kissed. The first human being came to life when Adam was God-kissed . . . God “breathed” into Adam the breath of life. The church came to life when the body of Christ was kissed at Pentecost. And what a make-out session that was. Hehe
As someone who has been God-kissed, you don’t just get the staples of life. You get a stable... in which Christ is born . . . born in and through every one of you. And with that stable comes a stabilizing promise that each and every one of you may expect a personal word from God. Not just some bread baked by someone else. But a personal staple from a personal stable. That’s what “Emmanuel” means: “God with us.” As God was with us, so we must be “with” others.
We are each promised moments of direct contact with the Spirit, a personal word of the Lord. Our faith is not based on doctrines, or inherited rituals, or even on the great words of sermons delivered by learned theologians. We have been promised a stable faith, a faith installed by and instilled with direct personal contacts with God’s spirit. God does not communicate to the faithful by some generic “Reply All” posting. The word of God, the very “mouth of God,” speaks personally to each and every one of us, if only we have ears to hear.
Joseph believed that the creator of the universe had a personal interest in, and a personal message for him. How many miss messages from God because they don’t’ expect to receive them, or they can’t “read” them when they stare us in the face?
In three days it will be a new year — a time when we celebrate the promise of new beginnings, a time when taking new chances seems reasonable, not reckless. As the New Year of 2014 approaches and we continue on our Christmas journeys, consider the choices Joseph made that changed his life and why he made them.
Will you read the signs and trust that God wants to kiss your life, kiss your soul in 2014?
Will you trust God enough to act on those kisses?
Will you trust God enough to act on those kisses?
Pucker up you are about to get Goose Kissed, I mean God kissed!