Our older son, Alex, turned 33 the day before Halloween 2017. We told him, "This is your Jesus year."
Christian tradition says Jesus was 33 when he died, nailed to a Roman cross, following three years of ministry and miracles. In his short earthly life, Jesus transformed the world. No single person has impacted the course of history more than the itinerant Jewish rabbi from Nazareth. As the New Testament scholar, Amy-Jill Levine says, "Jesus raised the bar on Judaism." Dr. Levine is Jewish. I've heard her explain that Jesus' Gospel was about changing our hearts and minds to eliminate even the thought of something sinful, something selfish, unloving, unmerciful and unforgiving.
So what do I mean by "your Jesus year?" It's a little bit like a "gap year" where high school graduates take a year off after graduation to work or volunteer in order to experience the world. It often includes travel abroad designed to broaden perspectives and prepare young students for university.
Now, imagine the news headlines in a culture where 33-year-olds everywhere took a year to focus on goodness, and healing and making a positive impact on the global community.
What do you think that would look like?
Immediately after Halloween, Christmas holiday ads spark the season of buying and bacchanalia. Many also think about charitable gift giving. Churches, temples and mosques host homeless for meals and beg for gently used clothing for organizations that serve the needy. Bell ringers on street corners collect coins and cash to help ensure a better Christmas morning for low-income families. I know a jeweler who gives 20% off coupons to customers who donate coats to a local church's closet for the homeless.
Unfortunately, after Hanukkah, Christmas and the New Year pass, most of us drop this beautiful tradition. It's back to racing through life and walking past those in need like so many fire hydrants. We just don't see them. Nor do we notice the good because we're preoccupied with the rancor between countries, political parties, communities and even family members.
What if Jesus had chosen to continue his anonymous life as a quiet carpenter from an obscure town? What if he never dedicated his time to performing remarkable public service -- as he washed feet, healed hearts and delivered the good news to the poor?
It's never too late to have a Jesus year, even if 33 is a distant milestone in your rear view mirror.