When life is in transition, we are reminded by one author that if we don't throw in the towel and call it quits, we will pass through three stages: an ending, a time of ambiguity and, by God's grace and our hard work, a new beginning.
Anyone who has lost or resigned from a job (ending), has hunted for a new job (a time of ambiguity) and has found a new job (a time of new beginning) can attest to these three stages of transition.
From a mood perspective, we can describe these stages as feeling grief over the ending, feeling anxious and frustrated while seeking the new work, and finally feeling elated yet anxious over a new beginning.
The Gospel of Matthew serves as the new beginning in a time of transition. Before we begin Matthew in the New Testament, we read of the closing days of the Old Testament (ending of the old covenant).
The Apocryphal books that tell of the beginning of the Jewish beginning of Hanukkah in the books of I and II Maccabees, tell of the time of ambiguity, uncertainty and frustration among the Jewish people back then.
In Matthew we read of the new beginning where God comes in the person of Jesus of Nazareth to establish a new covenant written not on tablets of stone but on human hearts.
Writing strongly from a Jewish perspective, Matthew heavily emphasizes that all that Jesus did and said was directly related to fulfilling Old Testament prophecy and prediction about the coming of the Messiah. We read time and time again, "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophets ..."
The new beginning stage of the transition as told by Matthew began amid scandal, an unplanned pregnancy and later the threat of murder by Herod.
Transition times are never easy for those involved. Without their sustaining faith in God, Mary and Joseph would have never survived the ordeal.
Neither can we today. During our transition times, we can look back to this story and gain hope and a renewed faith that we too will survive losses suffered and the time of ambiguity as we look for the new to happen.
We, too, will not only endure but also prevail over all the obstacles and pitfalls and thus discover, fresh again, that God has given us another chance for a new beginning.
Dr. Gene Norris is a local Presbyterian pastor.