Ready for the New Year:
A Bible Study for New Year's Eve

(December 31)
by Rev. Lee Johnson

December 31, 2021


This past week many of us begin the process of “putting away” Christmas. I’m not fond of the task, having enjoyed the way Christmas clutters my home with joyful lights and colors used only in December. Once packed away, everything looks empty. Some ornaments and décor, though, get stretched into January, until January 6, the Day of Epiphany. If you are into numbers, January 6 is the 12th day following Christmas. Get it? The 12 Days of Christmas! In other words, Christmas does not “officially” conclude until Epiphany, 12 days after the birth, when those three “Wise Men” arrive at the manger bearing gifts for the baby Jesus. Only Matthew’s Gospel records the story, filled with intrigue, anxiety, and mystery. It seems King Herod is secretly threatened by the birth believing the baby Jesus is the fulfillment of Micah’s prophecy and thus poses a threat to his authority and leadership. Under the guise of desiring to “pay homage” to the baby, Herod calls on the Wise Men to help him locate the birth scene. But, in reality he wants to kill the child. Once the child is found, the Wise Men are to return to Herod with news of the exact location. God, however, interrupts Herod’s plan, warning the Wise Men, in a dream, to return home “by another road.” As you might guess, Herod is infuriated. What do you make of Herod’s anger? What do you make of God’s intervention? Throughout the birth narrative, God uses dreams to accomplish what God wants done. And, what about the Wise Men who “go home another road?”     


In 1987, singer and songwriter James Taylor, along with Timothy Mayer, composed the song “Home By Another Way.” Taylor sings the song telling the story from Matthew: “Those magic men the Magi, some people call them wise, or Oriental, even kings, well anyway, those guys. They visited with Jesus; they sure enjoyed their stay. Then warned in a dream of King Herod’s scheme, they went home by another way.” In the song, Taylor goes on to sing: “Maybe me and you can be wise guys too and go home by another way. Old Herod likes to take a mile. It’s best to go home by another way. We can make it another way.” I’ve always been thoughtful of the meaning embedded in the Wise Men’s choice to “go home by another way.” Sometimes, you just have to go at it in a different manner. In Matthew’s story, it means taking another route, off the familiar path. Life events, big and small, often invite us to do just that. Now take a moment and listen to James Taylor sing “Home By Another Way.” Obviously, that the Wise Men did so, went home by another way, holds meaning for Taylor. What meaning does it hold for you?


It would seem, an encounter with the living God would be life-changing. That’s what Christmas is supposed to offer, a life-changing encounter with a God who takes human form, becoming “one of us.” The significance of the event is to make us more peaceful, more prone to justice, kinder, gentler. Maybe this is why we begin a new year resolved to do things differently. Years ago, I taught high school English and journalism. After a two-week Christmas break, I was always struck by the notion: what was problematic before the Christmas break, was equally so following the two-week vacation, so much for a life-changing encounter with Christmas! Yet, that’s the hope in this story from Matthew. We can go home from Christmas by another road. We need not return to life as normal. What changes might you make as a result of this Christmas like is there a different road you need to follow? 


Micah 5: 2; Matthew 2: 1-12


Asbury's Weekend Worship:
Beginning Sunday, January 2 at 11 a.m. for Live Stream or 5 p.m. for recording.


"Home By Another Way," by James Taylor:


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