I love this simple image from David Hayward over at NakedPastor.com. It says all that needs to be said.
I am looking for an Epiphany today. That seems like a pretty good request, seeing that it’s Epiphany and all. Epiphany is celebrated today, January 6th and is the time we remember those wise guys, the magi, coming from afar and worshipping at the feet of Jesus…if not necessarily at the same time as the shepherds. Epiphany means “manifestation of God” and the folks here at Girdwood Chapel are very used to me driving that point into the ground on Epiphany Sunday, which we celebrated last week here.
I have always found it interesting, indeed surprising, indeed scandalous how the Lord God Almighty chose to manifest himself. Baby. Manger. Animal stall. Poor shepherds. Really the only ones with any means that make an appearance in that early story are those magi…and they show up a bit later. Everyone else is dirt poor or at least on the low end of the social-economic ladder.
Jesus comes into the mess…the muck…the brokenness of our world. It’s as Paul says in Philippians 4:6-8:
Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
God comes to us in the stuff of life. It has been said that, because of the incarnation there nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred. God enters here. He is manifested and revealed in the dark areas of our lives. He is the light of the world who comes to us.
And so the prophet Isaiah proclaims:
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” (Isaiah 60:3)
And while I’m not one to go on and on about how my spiritual life is a mess (which, one could say it is) or how life is terrible (which it isn’t) there are some areas I’m looking for an Epiphany, a little manifestation from the Lord…areas where I need God’s light to shine.
I could use a little epiphanizing (?) or a little manifestation of God as I struggle with how to work with the church I serve to make some financial progress. We just went to a 3/4 time pastoral role and we (both the church and I) would like to be back on our financial feet in a year. There’s a lot of work to do here. I could use a little epiphany (or maybe a big one).
I could use a little manifestation of God as I tackle a Bible reading plan for the year. While I’ve read t all of the Bible for various classes, both those I’ve attended and those I’ve taught, I’m hoping and praying for some new revelations as I make it through over 12 months.
I could use a little light in the darkness as I try to get a new blog up and running. This blogging thing has actually been wonderful for my spiritual life and the things I’ve read and reflected on have had a profound influence on me. I’d like to “step it up” a bit.
I don’t look at my life, my family, my job, my health and feel like the world is crashing in around me. I’m aware of God’s presence. I feel the love of family and friends. I do enjoy what I do. But, I’m praying for an Epiphany today. I would like to have “The Star” guide me into the presence of Christ in a new way and then return by a new way myself.
And then I’ll just have to figure out what gift I should lay at Christ’s feet. I’m plum out of Gold and Frankincense and Myrrh. I’ll probably need to pull the verse from “In the Bleak Midwinter” out of my memory…
What canI give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb:
If I were a wise man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give him: give my heart.
And that would be enough.
Bring it on.
[The "War on Christmas"] is the battle by Christmas against any other religion’s tradition. I defy Bill O’Reilly and his compadres to locate the smallest corner of our nation immune from the months-long drumbeat of Christmas stuff. For us, the holiday seems closer to Star Trek’s Borg Collective (“Resistance is futile!”) than anything I can find in the Christian scriptures.
…so much of Christmas in America has nothing to do with Christ or Jesus. If there was a war, it was waged long ago amongst Christians. And the majority of them decided they also wanted a cultural holiday that distilled an essence from Christmas and left most of the God stuff behind. In my mind, I think of that holiday as “Xmas.”
Look at our cultural holiday touchstones, all the way back to Dickens’s Christmas Carol. What are the books, movies and TV specials that come back again and again and again? It’s a Wonderful Life. How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The Nutcracker. Frosty the Snowman. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. A Visit from St. Nicholas. The Nightmare Before Christmas. And on and on.
There’s only one example I can think of in the entire popular pantheon that includes enough actual theology for a short sermonette: Linus giving his unapologetic recitation from the Book of Luke in A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Let’s not blame this on the ACLU or the Supreme Court or Barack Obama. The decisions about which of the many, many holiday-timed specials became perennials were made by the marketplace and over decades. Most attempts by Christian religionists to create entertainment that was explicitly Christian and transcendentally popular have had little success beyond preaching to their own choir.
“…the incarnation is the complete refutation of every human system and institution that claims to control, possess, and distribute God. Whatever any church or religious leader may claim in regard to their particular access to God or control over your experience of God, the incarnation is the last word: God loves the world. God came into the world in the form of the people he created, the human race (including you and me), who bear his image. God’s creation of humanity in his image gives hints of who he is, since we all are marked by his fingerprints.
But as flawed humans, we give only a vague hint of God. Our broken reflection of God’s image is easily drowned out by our broken humanity. then, two thousand years ago, God came in his fullness. He came to all of us in Jesus. The incarnation is not owned, trademarked, or controlled by any church. It belongs to every human being. The incarnation is not something that requires a distributor or middleman. It is a gracious gift to every person everywhere, religious or not. God gave himself to us in Jesus.”
? Michael Spencer, Mere Churchianity: Finding Your Way Back to Jesus-Shaped Spirituality
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, because you are the Almighty Word of God!
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, because you are the Word made flesh. You are Emmanuel, God with us!
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, because you, the all-powerful Word of creation, became weak and vulnerable.
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, because you became human in order to be with us, so that you might reveal the Father to us, and so that you might save us.
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, Word of God Incarnate, Savior of the world…and my Savior too!