…5…4…3…2…1…Happy New Year!
This is such a special time of year because it signifies a fresh start and a clean slate. We’re energized to face forward and show up in intentional ways.
While there is “technically” nothing special about January 1, you likely have created some sort of habit at the turn of the year to reflect on the past months and how you’d like to change or grow in the year ahead.
As we enter this year and set our intentions for what we will focus on and value, we want to first look to Scripture. The Word will help us to consider the ways God wants to empower and shape our intentions. We want to make a conscious habit of looking to Jesus and His example of showing up to help us set the tone for the year ahead.
The beautiful thing? Jesus went to a lot of new places throughout His life. We can use His example of showing up to new places to influence how we can step into new relationships and opportunities in the days ahead.
Following Jesus’ Example
As you read through the narrative we’ve adapted below, see if you can notice the ways Jesus showed up and acted as He encountered new people and entered new places. The original story can be found in Matthew 14:13-21.
“Can you see him? Can you see Jesus?”
We had traveled for days by foot just to hear some of his teachings. Even though our feet hurt, we still followed him from shore when Jesus got on a boat. Among the growing crowd were the sick and the sick at heart. We all had a reason for seeking out the miracle man who claimed to be the Son of God.
“He’s coming ashore,” someone yelled from the crowd.
We all rushed to merely catch a glimpse of Jesus. As the boat got closer and closer, I could see a man looking our way.
There was nothing special about him. He had dark complexion and dark hair like me. What caught my attention was his eyes. They moved back and forth slowly, pausing on some in the crowd before moving on to others. It appeared that they even welled up in tears with compassion for those in pain. The number of hurts—physical and otherwise—was vast. He seemed to feel the weight of each one.
When the boat came ashore, Jesus didn’t rush about his business. He paused and the entire crowd seemed to collectively hold their breath. And then something amazing happened. Jesus reached out and touched the shoulder of a woman near him.
While I couldn’t see exactly what happened, the woman who appeared sick suddenly jumped up, thanked Jesus, and then moved away with an energy she didn’t have before. This went on for a while as Jesus slowly moved through the crowd. There was hardly a person he didn’t stop to touch or share a moment with.
As we awaited our turn to meet the man, Jesus, rumbling stomachs made no secret of the crowd’s hunger. It was well past dinner time, but food was scarce. One of Jesus’ disciples came by and asked everyone to sit.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“Jesus has requested everyone sit down.”
“Are we going to eat?”
“I’m not sure. He has five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus seems to think he can do something with that.”
I craned my neck to see Jesus from my seated position. I couldn’t hear exactly what was being said, but he fixed his eyes on the sky and gave thanks. Then, he began breaking the bread apart and giving it to the disciples to serve to the people. What a miracle! Those few loaves should have been long gone, yet Jesus kept handing out more and more.
As I watched in amazement, someone handed me a portion of bread and fish. I looked down at not just a handful, but a hearty dinner with plenty to spare. Who was this man that he could take a few loaves of bread and fish and feed a multitude?
What We Can Learn From Jesus
There are a few things we can learn from Jesus about how we can navigate this new year. This story is just one of many that show how Jesus gave care and compassion to those He encountered.
Here are three things we can take away from this story as we show up in this new year:
#1: Jesus paid attention to people.
For you and me, we can be quick to put tasks ahead of the people in our lives. But over and over, we see Jesus pausing to address someone in a crowd or to heal a particular ailing person. He cared about people—their physical hurts, emotional traumas, and more. He listened. He made even the outcast and overlooked feel seen and loved. Jesus was never too busy to stop, to show compassion, and to make a difference.
Who needs to be noticed and cared for this year? How can you cultivate the art of listening? What resources might you have to share? Is there someone on the outskirts who you can draw in?
#2: Jesus intentionally spent time with His Father.
After this passage in Matthew, we are told that Jesus “went up on the mountain by himself to pray” (Matthew 14:23). Other passages also mention how Jesus took quiet hours and space to be alone with His Heavenly Father. This was such a priority for Him! If the Son of God recognized the importance of seeking out time to be with the Father, it should certainly be a regular rhythm for us!
What barriers have stood between you and regular time with God? Can you identify one small shift you can make to allow for intimacy with God this year?
#3: Jesus held His expectations loosely.
You know how it is: you craft your goals and your schedule, and then your best-laid plans are interrupted by a flat tire, a sick child, or an urgent issue at work. We treat these things as unwanted interruptions that can ruin our day. But Jesus sets an example of turning interruptions into opportunities.
When Jesus got on a boat, the crowds followed Him. When He got off, He could have easily pushed them aside to pursue His own agenda. Instead, He adjusted expectations and turned His attention to the hurting, the broken, and the needy around Him. Jesus was driven by compassion to look for opportunities to love and care for others as life twisted and turned.
How do you handle “interruptions?” How can we shift our expectations when circumstances shift outside our control? Are there boundaries we can set around our tasks so we can stay available to those around us?
As we start this new year, let’s encourage each other to be intentional. Let’s consider how we can show up to new places as Jesus did. How can we be open and attentive to our families? Our neighbors? Our coworkers? Who is suffering loneliness in silence and needs our care? Where and when can we make space to connect with our Father in heaven? And how can we hold our expectations more loosely to welcome interruptions when they come our way?
Let’s ask God to meet us in these resolutions of our heart:
Father, we’re so easily consumed and distracted by the responsibilities we carry. Lift our eyes so we look to you and see those who need your love. Move us to show compassion. Guard our hearts from self-focus that ignores the needs and hurts around us. Set our priorities so we put people first. Show us what it means to love not just with our words, but with our actions. Fill our home with your humble, peaceful spirit so it’s a sanctuary for all who walk through our door. We want to love and live in the way of Jesus. Amen.