"New Year Priorities" by Pastor A.J. Houseman
Updated: Jan 21
So Let me tell you about the busiest week of my life in college.
It was the spring semester of my senior year, only a couple of weeks away from finals week. And I had to cram everything into a half a week.
See I had decided when I graduated from college I wanted an international experience, not just to travel but to do something productive in another country and hopefully learn a new language fluently. I had applied, written all the essays, submitted all the references, and was accepted to a business school in France to get my MBA.
I was telling my campus pastor about this and he suggested me to a program the the ELCA Lutheran church has called Young Adults in Global Mission. Where you spend a year as a missionary working locally with churches, schools, and other organizations in another country.
So I applied to that program too. Same thing, I had written all the essays and submitted the church forms I needed. I had completed the phone interview and was invited to a weekend discernment interview weekend for the finalists of this program.
This brings us to the week of April in question. I needed to be on a plane early Thursday morning to head to this interview weekend so I had to have everything done, signed, and turned in before Thursday.
Did I mention this was only a couple of weeks before finals?
This semester I had also done something kinda of crazy, I was taking 19 credits. I was the president of my sorority which was way more work than I ever thought it would be and I had a job on campus.
SO when I got up on Monday morning, I did not sleep until I went to bed on Wednesday night after I was done packing.
See professors will accept papers early if you are going to be gone, but not late. And I had a big exam that week in my Financial Securities analysis class. Yeah,... it's as hard as it sounds.
But come Wednesday against all odds I managed to get everything done.
I was sitting at the kitchen counter of my apartment after getting home from work at about 10pm. My roommate was just asking how everything was going. And I told her, I'm exhausted, I almost killed myself this week trying to get to this interview weekend and I don’t even know what I want to do yet.
She just laughed and said, A.J., I think what you did this week kinda means you HAVE made a choice.
Then she said something that I want you to listen to closely, she said: “What’s important?”
In the midst of our daily lives, I think this is a good question. What’s Important?
Maybe we had to run to the doctor quick after dropping the kids off for school and are going to have to scramble to get ready for that big meeting this morning then eat lunch in your car as you drive to pick up dry cleaning and run to the pharmacy and by the time you get back to your office you are weighed down with emails. You leave work… finally, pick up some last minute groceries for dinner, pick up the kids, go home and make a hasty dinner, tell the kids you love them, then sit back down on your computer to work again.
What’s important again?
Christmas comes with its own set of chaos right? And then we jump right into new years eve. If you are in school, then you will be preparing for a new semester, for all of us, a new year.
Trying to restart and find priorities in the new year will come with its own set of challenges this year. For many of us, our priorities have drastically changed in the last year because of the new reality that we live in.
The birth of Jesus changed the priorities of his parents, for sure. But also our lives in the wake of his birth have changed.
Our gospel lesson shows us Simeon and Anna, who stop what they are doing to declare this is Jesus the Messiah. Because it’s important.
Stop what you are doing, what’s important this Christmas?
“It’s not that the work doesn’t have to be done. It’s not that it's wrong to do these things or prioritize our daily obligations. It’s just that Christmas gives us a chance to stop and take a moment to prioritize God. ”
2021 is going to be a new year. New year, new opportunities. And maybe some re-prioritizing. How will you prioritize God this year?
A good way many do this is starting the day off with intentional prayer. Or if you are like me, in the afternoon.
You see, I struggle with this too. Even working at a church, I can get so caught up in the day to day stressors and administration of a church that I even forget this main point. What’s important?
What’s important? God came into this world, the Emmanuel, the God with us. This baby was born so that we will know the love and grace that God has for each of us. That’s pretty important.
So how can you prioritize God this new year? How can you encourage others to prioritize God? To stop and take a moment away from our crazy lives, our daily obligations, and the stressors that come from being human, and prioritize God.