What I like about New Year is that it allows me to start all over again. It’s like a fresh new diary book to write another 365 pages of my dream journey. Whether you regard 2021 as a successful year or a not-so-successful year, the new year gives you another starting point to renew your dream.
Another thing I like about the New Year is it’s a new milestone of an incredible miracle in history. Our calendar is a testimony to Jesus Christ. We often neglect the significance of the calendar we see every day. 2022 means it has been two thousand and twenty-two years since the birth of Jesus Christ.
It’s a miracle because it was about a child born to a young peasant woman in an obscure town behind an obscure inn in a probably smelly manger. After his birth, his king tried to kill him, so his family had to escape to Egypt. He was a refugee kid.
Even the town he grew up in later was so obscure that people in those days believed nothing good could come out of Nazareth. With all the obstacles and obscurity, this child broke human history into two parts: BC and AD. Today we call it CE and BCE to make it politically correct.
No matter how you call it, the year 2022 still points back to the birth of Christ. Each time you put down your signature, you make reference to Jesus Christ by putting the date next to it. Even the atheist communists have to make reference to him.
Christmas is not just a joyful winter solstice celebration or a year-end commercial festival. We must not see it any less than an immense impact of an obscure child that divided our history into two parts. Each time I look at the calendar, I see the evidence of a miracle that only God could have done.
As we prepare for the New Year to take another shot at life to make it more fruitful, I believe we can learn significantly from this divine child who has made the maximum impact in the world. This Sunday’s scripture lesson gives us a clue on how Jesus grew in three aspects of life: Wisdom, Maturity, and Charisma that I call the three pillars of personal growth for maximum impact. Let’s check it out.
[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone—the Lightkeeper! You are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you, and you are satisfied in God.]
The scripture lesson for today is from the Gospel According to Luke 2:41–52. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]
Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. 43 When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 44 Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” 49 He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he said to them. 51 Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor. (Lk 2:41–52).
[This is the Word of the Lord! Thanks be to God.]
The last verse summarizes how Jesus grew up in what I call the three pillars of personal growth: “wisdom, years, and divine and human favor.” “Wisdom” is clear. “Years” requires interpretation. Some manuscripts say “stature” instead of “years.” After some research, I concluded that it means “maturity,’ behaving like an adult or a mature person.
The word “favor” is translated from Greek Charis (χάρις), which mean “grace.” It’s also the root word for “charisma.” It means he grew in charisma—charming to God and people, attracting God’s grace and social grace. We will talk more about this later.
Even though Luke gave us a very brief summary of Jesus’ growth, it is a good framework for balanced personal development. We also read about how Prophet Samuel grew similarly in the Old Testament. So, we can say Jesus grew as any normal smart kid grows, balanced in all essential areas of life.
I say, “normal smart kid” because there is no sign showing he was freakish. That means his growth was normal, and it sets an example for us. We could definitely apply these three pillars in our personal growth in our New Year plan. Let’s unpack it based on the context of this story.
1. Plan to Grow in Wisdom
We know there’s a difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is like food, but wisdom is like muscles. Not all food turns into muscles. If we can’t make food turn into muscles, it will make us fat and may even make us sick. So, knowledge is important, but turning it into wisdom is essential.
This passage shows Jesus enjoyed dialoguing with highly educated people. In those days, the temple in Jerusalem was the concentration of intellectuals. The Bible says,
After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. (Luke 2:46).
Jesus went with his family to Jerusalem for the Passover. After a day’s journey on their way back, his parents found Jesus missing in the returning crowd. In those days, they traveled as a community, so it was normal for the kids to walk with other kids or family friends that they felt entertaining to make the journey easier or fun.
The parents assumed Jesus was with the crowd, maybe until the first night when they were about to rest. It’s like the Public Service announcement you see on TV, “It’s 10 PM now, do you know where your child is?” Then they started looking for him and traced him back to Jerusalem.
It took them three days to find him in the temple, maybe because that was not the place they expected a twelve-year-old to hang out. It seemed Jesus was so absorbed in his learning that he had forgotten the time. The next verse says that he also had the intellectual capacity to process the knowledge.
And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. (Luke 2:47).
However, we should not take this as proof of Jesus’ divinity. The Bible assured us that Jesus was fully human. He still needed to learn and grow. If we regard him as some super genius, we might dismiss the opportunity to learn what God wants us to learn through his life.
King Solomon taught his children to seek wisdom at all costs, and he said,
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Proverbs 9:10).
Again, the word “fear” is not the way we use the term today. It means “revere.” So you can say, “The reverence of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” “Insight” here is another word for wisdom. Why do we gain insight by the knowledge of the Holy One? It’s because He creates us.
The best way to find out the functions of a device is to ask its creator. It’s a waste of time to figure out who we are and why we are here on earth without consulting our Creator or the user manual, the Bible.
It seems Jesus was at the temple figuring out why on earth God sent him here, and he enjoyed the discovery and the discourse. Like Solomon, Jesus grained his wisdom through his reverence of the Lord and knowledge of the Holy One. In short, if you want wisdom, join a Bible Study group.
2. Plan to Grow in Maturity
The Bible says Jesus “increased in years.” It sounds strange because we think we grow in years without choice. Time goes by whether we want it or not. Another version says that Jesus increased in “stature,” which sounds like physical growth, but that is again beyond our control. The best way to interpret it is “maturity.” Some people may grow old but never mature, but Jesus became mature according to age.
What it means is when we are young, we depend on our parents, but as we grow, we become dependent on God to give us a mission on earth. We often only think about becoming “independent,” but independence does not take us far. Life without a mission is meaningless. For a meaningful mission in life, we rely on God.
The Chinese philosophers say that true maturity begins when a person has a mission, a sense of responsibility to make this world a better place to live. We can see a growing sense of mission in Jesus from this point. He is weaning from his parents’ care to God’s mission for his life. The next verse said,
“When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:48-49).
His parents were surprised to find him in the temple and discovered his ability to converse with the intellectuals. They seemed both proud and annoyed. Mary said, “Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety,” but Jesus declared to them that he was already in his father’s house, meaning his heavenly Father was his real father.
Even though it’s true that God is Jesus’ real father, there is also an implication for us to wean from the dependency on our earthly parents to the heavenly Parent who sent us here on earth to use our life and gifts to fulfill a mission.
As he increased in wisdom, Jesus is also increased in maturity by developing a sense of mission assigned by the heavenly Father and began to take responsibility at home and in society.
How do we plan to grow in maturity in the New Year? It’s hard to force maturity. The simple way is to serve because maturity is shown in responsibility. Serving God in the church and people in the community is the path to induce further maturity.
3. Plan to Grow in Charisma
As mentioned above the word, “favor” is translated from Greek Charis (χάρις), which is the root word for charisma. Charisma is a hot topic in the secular world but mainly in a vane sense. Everyone wants charisma like a movie star, but charisma without wisdom and maturity can get them into trouble.
We are talking about the true charisma that helps our mission. Without charisma, Jesus would not have made such an impact. The first type of charisma Jesus increased in is charisma with God—winning God’s favor. Jesus knew what to do to please God, and he became the apple of God’s eyes. We often read in the Bible, God saying from the cloud, “This is my beloved Son.”
King David knew that secret chord of how to please the Lord. Even though he was not perfect, God says that King David was “a man after my own heart” because he did God’s will.
How to increase in God’s favor? Let’s look at the next verse.
Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. (Luke 2:50a)
In the previous verses, Jesus sounded like a rebellious teenager, but, in the next verse, he was obedient to his parents. What does it mean? Weaning from dependency on his parents does not mean disowning them. His previous obedience was as a dependent child, but now it’s his mission as he enters adulthood.
If you want to win God’s favor, do what God loves you to do? The Bible says,
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—this is the first commandment with a promise: “so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” (Eph 6:1–3).
It’s the fifth in the Ten Commandments but the first in human relationships because the first four commandments are about our relationship with God. It means God takes it so seriously that He put it at the top of human relationships.
This command is the only one that comes with a promise or a reward. All other nine commandments do not come with a promise, but his one comes with the promise for wellness and longevity. Here’s another sign that God takes it so seriously that he would bribe you to honor your parents.
Knowing this being the will of God, Jesus was obedient to his earthly parents. He became charismatic in God’s eyes by doing God’s will. Later in the Bible, we often read that everything he did was according to God’s will. He said even every word he spoke was according to God’s will.
So, how do you plan to grow in God’s favor? Figure out what God loves and do it. It comes from developing the wisdom to know it and maturity to see it. We often pray to God to bless us, but the best way to be blessed is to do what God is blessing. It will increase your charisma not only in front of God but also among people. The rest of the verse says,
His mother treasured all these things in her heart. (Luke 2:50)
Here it’s saying Mary became his first fan and she treasured everything he did. Later, we read Jesus drew large crowds. Once there were over five thousand men came to listen to his teaching. It could actually be ten thousand in total because they did not count the women and children there.
Charisma is meaningless unless you draw the right crowd to you. Some fans are just fair-weather fans that will not help you expand your mission. To draw the right people, do the right things God wants you to do, and the right people will come to you, and at the same time, expel the wrong people.
All Jesus wanted to charm was only twelve people. He only cared if his charisma is on the twelve disciples that would give their lives to continue his mission. He trained them to become charismatic except the one who betrayed him.
I hope this gives you a framework to make your New Year resolution on personal growth to make a maximum impact in the world with your life in 2022 and beyond. Let us all grow in wisdom, maturity, and charisma so that God is glorified by a fruitful year we cultivate.
That’s it for today, and I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I love receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound happiness.
Amen! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!