Connections 01.01.2023: Beginning a New Year

Matthew 2:13-23

Jesus’s life began in great drama. His earthly parents rushed to be counted for the census only to get stuck in Bethlehem as Mary started having labor pains. She gave birth to Jesus away from home, without a comfortable and private place for any of them to lie down and rest (see Luke 2).

And the drama continued. The little family settled in Bethlehem during Jesus’s early months; maybe it was too difficult to travel back home right away. Wise men visited them and brought Jesus meaningful gifts, and a spirit of gratitude and celebration filled the parents’ hearts. But soon their hearts were pounding in fear as they learned of King Herod’s jealous rage. An angel warned Joseph and Mary to flee with Jesus and get him to safety in Egypt. Meanwhile, Herod took devastating revenge for the wide men failing to return and give him Jesus’s location: he “killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under” (v. 16). We can only imagine the heartache that came over this little town.

We have just celebrated Jesus’s birth in a flurry of Christmas Eve services, Christmas Day worship, colorful lights, presents, favorite Christmas tunes, and all the delectable food and drink we could stomach. The holiday can contain great drama for us too—from tense family gatherings to long, tiring road trips to seasonal illnesses. And some of us grieve at Christmastime. Maybe we are too sick to enjoy the holidays. Maybe we have lost someone we dearly loved. Maybe our friend or family member no longer knows who we are due to dementia. Maybe we are so far away from loved ones that we can only communicate with them via text or video calls.

For some of us who have endured a lonely Christmas, this New Year’s Day may bring more uncertainty than hope. Like Mary and Joseph and Jesus, we may need a safe place to rest and grow. Like the wise men, we may be searching for a promise that seems too good to be true. Like the mothers suffering Herod’s wrath, we may long for comfort in the face of great loss.

If any of you are struggling for a happy new year, I offer this prayer:

May the God who led Mary, Joseph, and Jesus to safety,
who lit the way for the wise men to find the Savior,
who promised the grieving mothers that death is not the end
lead you to safety, light your way to the Savior, and assure you of life everlasting.
May you feel the peace of God in your spirit as you begin 2023. Amen.


  • What has your Christmas holiday been like? Have you felt more joy or sadness?
  • Verse 16 is a brief line in today’s passage, but it carries tremendous weight. What do you make of Herod’s power? How do you handle situations when some people seem to be spared trauma while others suffer?
  • Today is the first day of 2023. What are your hopes for this new year, and what are some steps you can take to fulfill those hopes?
  • How can stories of God’s deliverance, direction, and comfort help you sense God’s presence in your own life?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.


For further resources, subscribe to the Connections Teaching Guide and Commentary. Additionally, the Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary series is a scholarly but accessible means for enhancing your study of each lesson.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email