Dear Family of Faith,

When it comes to New Year’s Resolutions, we might say there are two kinds of people:  those who break them, and those who don’t make them! But whether we make them or not, it’s easy to see why people associate the new year with making changes. After all, as the calendar turns from December to January, we can think of the newly-minted year as a clean slate. Although some of what will be written for us in the new year will not be of our choosing, we do have control over our own habits and choices—and those can make a world of difference for us in 2024.

Many people choose to make resolutions that relate to their health and wellness. Healthy eating, more exercise, giving up smoking or drinking alcohol—these are the sorts of resolutions we often make or hear of others making. And there is nothing wrong with resolving to take better care of the bodies and minds God has given us.

But as I consider the witness of scripture—and in particular, the stories of Christmas and Epiphany—I find there are many good examples of other sorts of resolutions we might make concerning our lives of discipleship. Let’s look at some of the faithful people from the nativity stories who offer us ideas for faithful New Year’s resolutions.

  1. Mary: Cultivating fellowship. We probably

think first of Mary’s faithful response of “here am I” when the angel told her that God had chosen her to be the mother of God’s Son. And being open to God’s plans is a great New Year’s resolution. But I think that what Mary did next, after the angel left, can also give us something to consider for the new year. Luke 1:39 tells us that after the angel departed, Mary went to the home of her relative Elizabeth, who was also expecting a child. There, the two women shared one another’s joy and amazement at what God was doing in their lives. Like Mary, we can choose to take advantage of opportunities for fellowship with our sisters and brothers in Christ. Lutheran Men, WELCA, Threads of Faith, STARS, and covered-dish dinners all provide opportunities for Christian fellowship.

  1. Joseph: Providing for others. Joseph willingly

took on the responsibility of caring for Mary’s child, the Messiah. Not only did he take Mary as his wife in spite of her before-marriage pregnancy, but he also, according to Matthew 2:14, took Mary and Jesus to Egypt to keep Jesus safe from the murderous King Herod. While we aren’t called to care for baby Jesus, we are called to care for those who need our help and protection. Mentoring a child, contributing to the Caring Cart and Blessings Box, giving food items for the backpack feeding program at our schools—all of these are ways we can resolve to help provide for others in the new year.

  1. The shepherds: Sharing good news. The

shepherds were chosen by God to hear the angel’s good news of great joy. And, faithfully, they went to see the child the angel told them about—baby Jesus. But they didn’t simply come and see; they went and told! Luke 2:20 says that “the shepherds returned [to their fields], glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.” When we experience God’s love and care, when we hear the good news of God’s grace and forgiveness, we too can share what we have heard and seen with others. Resolving to share our good news—and give God the glory and the credit—is another faithful resolution we might make this year.

  1. The magi: Going outside our comfort zones.

The magi had to travel a very long way to a land that was unfamiliar to them in order to pay homage to Jesus. While it’s not likely that we will be led by a star to a distant land as the magi were, we can learn from their willingness to leave behind all that was familiar in order to honor the newborn king. Most of us prefer to do what we have always done, to stay with what’s familiar. But what if this year, we try something new? Something a little less comfortable? Maybe taking on a new role here at Faith, such as lector or greeter or Sunday school teacher? As John Ortberg says, “if you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat.”

  1. Anna and Simeon: Worshiping faithfully. Both

Simeon and Anna were people of deep faith. Simeon is described as “righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel,” and Anna “never left the temple but worshiped there . . . night and day” (Luke 2:25, 37). Their faithfulness was rewarded in the most marvelous way, for both of them were present when Mary and Joseph brought the infant Jesus to the temple. This year, I pray that each of you will be faithful in worship, coming to hear God’s word and offer your prayers and praises. May you too meet Jesus as we gather in God’s house.

Your servant in Christ,

Pastor Lisa