And if you be unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.    

Joshua 24:15

Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Every year our parish chooses a word to define it’s year (You’ll read more about this in the reflection on January 1, 2024). This year, it was the word “serve.” We also chose a Bible verse that helped us put our word to use. This verse was Joshua 24:15. Here is the setting.

God had established a covenant with Abraham, that Abraham’s offspring would be God’s chosen people, and God would be their God, He would provide for them, they would put their faith and obedience in Him. Just because the people of Israel had a relationship with God didn’t mean that everything was always smooth between them and God. The people still had to deal with attacks from within and without their ranks, a result of the fallen world. And the people still made bad choices that took them away from God. Isaac followed Abraham, and Jacob followed Isaac. Eventually the people of Israel ended up in Egypt because of a famine and eventually they were enslaved by the Egyptians for four hundred years. Moses led the people out of Egypt for forty years in the desert as they made their way back to the “Promised Land” once inhabited by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Moses “fought” with the people—they struggled with staying faithful to God and not giving up during the long journey. Moses, however, would not be the one to take the Israelites back into the Land of Canaan. This job would fall to Joshua. The people were somewhat apprehensive about going into the Land of Canaan, which had been settled by various peoples who had military strength much greater than theirs. God promised that if the people would remain faithful, He would give the land into their hands.

Joshua led the people into the Land of Canaan, and they conquered the land. While this conquest happened easily from a military standpoint, the people, just as they did with Moses, had their doubts and temptations to deal with. There were other tribes that could influence people away from the Lord. These tribes had their own “gods” and so there was exposure to other deities and other possibilities that were a constant temptation to the people of Israel. The “covenant” with God needed to be “renewed” periodically, not because it expired but because the people had to repeatedly recommit to following and trusting in God. (Our covenant is established with God at baptism, and is renewed throughout our lives when we confess our faith—reciting the Creed—when we receive Holy Communion, and when we go to confession and repent/recommit ourselves to the Lord). As Joshua was about die, in Joshua 24, he called the people of Israel together, the leaders of each of the twelve tribes of Israel, and encouraged them to stay faithful to the God of Israel. He pointed out the other possibilities, like “the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, of the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.” (Joshua 24:15) He asked them which god they would serve. Before emphatically telling them “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

As we conclude this week, and our theme, “Serve Like Jesus,” and as we are about to conclude our year, 2023, and enter into a new year, we bring up for one final time this year, the verse of the year, Joshua 24:15. And ask rhetorically, “who do you serve?” There are so many possibilities in the world today—we serve social media, in the sense that we are really slaves to it. We are slaves to our phones—we can’t seem to go anywhere without them. We are slaves to the expectations of others—others want to stamp out the name of Jesus by putting all kinds of obstacles in the way of Christians, and we all kind of go along with it. And we are slaves to ourselves, and our own egos, our passions, our pathologies (the things we suffer from) and even slaves to our past failings. When we serve the Lord, when we put Him first, then we won’t feel so constricted by the pressures of social media, others or even ourselves. Of course, when we choose to put the Lord first, we may feel some societal pressure, because a statement to serve the Lord is a bold statement indeed. As we begin a new year and set goals for ourselves and our families, it is important to figure out where serving the Lord fits. Or more correctly, it is important to put the Lord first and see where everything else fits.

He whom nothing can contain has been contained in a womb. He is in the Father’s bosom and His Mother’s embrace. How can this be, but as He knows and willed and was well pleased. Fleshless as He was, He willingly took flesh. And He Who Is became what He was not, for us. And while departing not from His own nature, He shared in our nature’s substance. So Christ was born with dual natures, wishing to replenish the world on high. (Kathisma, Orthros of the Nativity, Trans by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)

Personal Reflection Point: In what specific ways do you and your house serve the Lord?