January. What can be said of January? Especially this January. In many Christian traditions, January brings about the end of the Christmas Season–culminating in the Celebration (and contemplation) of Epiphany. The New Year invites yearly discussion on life plans, goals, resolutions–we, so full of determination, turn our eyes to look ahead. The past two years: so full of change and transition–so full of potential and vitriol. The cosmic magnetism towards normalcy seems to have broken. What perspective can this January bring into the cognitive dissonance of finding new solutions–for finding God?
Perhaps Epiphany does provide help. It is the traditional celebration of the Wise Men’s recognition of the divine and human kingship of Christ–found in a toddler, in a small village, far from the trappings and expectations of royalty and divinity. Matthew 2:1-12 tells us the story of the magi, traveling with gifts intended for a king. They traveled a great distance and arrived into political intrigue–and later terrible violence–finding Jesus, the Christ, in an unexpected place. They celebrated with great joy and gave him kingly gifts prepared beforehand. Having found what they were looking for, they worshipped the King.
Now, there are far more traditions and interpretations of this story than you may realize (really, go look some up–it’s great reading). That said, as translators, we strive to understand what the text itself says clearly. Of course, there are many lessons that can be inferred and extrapolated, but what strikes me this January is how the hopes and expectations of the wise men culminate in exceedingly great joy when they found their preparations and sacrifices were not for naught.
The gifts brought by the wise men were prepared with certain expectations for their journey and destination. They thought: of course, the new king will be in a palace; of course, their reception would be honorable and worthy of their stature; of course, they were sure to find some reciprocity for their generosity. The journey was sure to be risky, if not flat out perilous. There were bandits, wild animals, extortionists, con artists, and all types of unsavory situations to be found on the road. They prepared with all of this in mind. Then followed the star. Though they found a divine king, few of their expectations were met; but they didn’t allow the many surprises they encountered to deter them or keep them from laying their treasures at the feet of Jesus.
While there is much to be learned in the story, a couple of simple ideas can help build a framework for navigating the year to come. First, let God be your guide–He will use the Bible, conversations, and even your education and work to show you the way to Himself. Second, despite the many trials and troubles, there is great purpose and joy to be found when you bring all of yourself to Jesus. Whether you are still looking to meet Him for the first time, or you are a seasoned Christian evaluating the roads before you, know that He who put you on this path is walking it with you and will see it through (Philippians 1:6).
Throughout January, we have been looking at Tanzania, and I want to share some thoughts from one of our Matengo translators. Filipo has been working hard on translating the Bible into his language for the past 6 years–alongside this work, he leads in a church and pursues further education. He has seen God work in miraculous ways in his life and community as his team has engaged the people with the Matengo Bible. He completed his master’s degree in 2021 and the New Testament is slated for release. Celebrating this journey, he said,
“Victory in the Christian life comes when you can look at the word, which is spirit and life, look at who you are, look at what God has done in his word for you and start believing it.”
Victory comes when you start believing in what God has done for you. His statement so purely captures the heart of the magi.
Looking to the year ahead, we invite you to walk with us as we walk with Bible translators all over the world–empowering Bible-less communities to hear and read God’s words in their own languages. To help people clearly, plainly, and beautifully understand what God has done for us.
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