By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
“They returned to their country by another road, since God had warned them in a dream not to go back to Herod” — Matthew 2:12
Year 2018 has come! Whenever another year comes, we always consider it a new year. And so, we greet each other, “Happy New Year!” But as we end one year after another it seems that the word new remains an unfulfilled dream. Things remain the same or even worse. The lives of ordinary people are not getting better, despite claims to the contrary. Prices of basic commodities are going up, while the value of human life is going down.
But nevertheless, the Christmas story continues to assure us that there is hope even in the midst of hopelessness. Things may remain the same, but there is something that can be changed, that can be transformed which can ultimately change everything. And that is no other than our way of life – our perceptions of the realities around us, our values and priorities in life.
The story of the wise men from the East who visited the baby Jesus born in Bethlehem shows us two ways of life which would serve as our points of reflections even as we face this New Year 2018: the way of life of King Herod and the way of life of the wise men (cf. Matthew 2:1-12).
Let’s take first King Herod’s way of life. It can be described in two ways: first, it is a way of killing people. According to Biblical scholars, Herod was appointed by the Roman Emperor as King of the Jews, simply because he was the only one left among the possible nominees to the throne. Herod himself was able to kill all the other possible contenders. He had a very low regard for human life, indeed. No wonder he was very much upset when he heard from the wise men that a baby was born to be the King of the Jews. Herod would not allow anyone to succeed him to the throne.
The Scripture says that everyone in Jerusalem was also upset, because the people knew the ways of King Herod, and they could almost anticipate the shedding of innocent blood. The people were not mistaken. For not too long after the wise men’s visit, cries of anguish were already heard in the neighboring towns of Bethlehem. Innocent children were killed upon the orders of King Herod.
The thousands of extrajudicial killings that happened in our country this past year was apparently a repetition of the Bethlehem killings more than two thousand years ago. Both killings are expressions of the lack of respect for human life.
Moreover, Herod’s way of life is a way of deception. According to the story, King Herod called the wise men to a secret meeting, and gave them instructions, saying: “Go and make a careful search for the child; and when you find him, let me know, so that I too may go and worship him.” King Herod projected himself as a very pious, very religious ruler. But deep inside, he was actually planning how to kill the child, the supposed object of his worship. Herod was no different from politicians today who would make use of the trappings of religion to deceive the people and to satisfy their greed for power.
Now, let’s take the wise men’s way of life. It can also be described in two ways: first, it is a way of truth. No doubt the wise men were searching for truth. They came all the way from the East to discover, to prove, and to see for themselves a child born to be the King of the Jews as shown by the bright star in the East. Perhaps, this was the reason why they were called wise men; for to be wise is to know the truth and to uphold the truth. This is the best antidote to the way of life of the likes of King Herod.
Moreover, the wise men’s way of life is the way of giving and not of getting. The wise men from the East went to Bethlehem not to grab or to undermine the power of the child born to be the King of the Jews; rather they went there to worship him and to offer him their gifts.
As long as Herod’s way of life continues to dominate our way of life as a people, years may come and go but things remain the same. There can never be real newness in our years or in our life as a people. Our hope lies in the wise men’s way of life, for it is God’s way of life Himself – the way of truth, the way of giving.
According to the Scriptures, the wise men “returned to their country by another road, since God had warned them in a dream not to go back to Herod.” A new year means a new way of life. Let us learn from the wise men from the East. To make this year really new, let us not go back to King Herod and his way of life.
On a personal note, we give thanks to God for He had shown to our family His loving kindness and faithfulness in many ways this past year. Our eldest son, Leo, passed the bar exams in 2017 and now working in a law firm in Makati. He initially wanted to become a medical doctor, thus he took up Bachelor of Science in Biology and Masters in Microbiology at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. But then, he shifted to law, and became a lawyer instead. He had a very short visit with us this Christmas Season. He is still single, but no longer available according to him.
Our second son, Lean, an architect, together with his wife Annabelle, also an architect, visited us before Christmas. We had a good time together. Lean is an architect consultant in a company based in Dubai, but they are staying in Abu Dhabi where Annabelle is also working. We are yet to have a grandchild with them.
Our youngest son, Roland, a medical doctor, is now working as a resident physician at the Orthopaedic Department of Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center. He had a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology from the University of the Cordilleras when he pursued his medical studies. He was challenged to take up medicine when his elder brother, Leo, decided to become a lawyer instead of pursuing his medical studies. He is the one staying with us. Also, he is still single, but no longer available.
As parents we would like our sons to become church workers like us, but they have their own life to live and their own career to pursue. Certainly, God has plans for their lives. But nevertheless, we keep on reminding them that if they would not become church workers like us, they should find ways to support church workers. We also keep on telling them that they should consider their respective profession as their vocation in life, their calling from God. Meaning, they are there not just to earn a living, but to serve their fellow human beings as concrete expressions of their service to God.
We really don’t know what this New Year 2018 will bring to our lives, but we do trust God will remain faithful as He did through all these years. We keep on trusting in God’s loving kindness and faithfulness even as we face the challenges of this New Year.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! # nordis.net