Tag Archives: Epiphany

Christ: Christmas Presents That Won’t Break

This is the final sermon based on the Advent study, Christmas Presents That Won’t Break, written by James Moore and Jacob Armstrong.  The original plan was to present the sermon on Sunday, December 30, 2017.  Unfortunately the frigid temperatures prompted the decision to cancel worship that Sunday.  Therefore, this has been edited to be given Sunday, January 7, 2018–Epiphany Sunday.  

As I post this, I can only wonder if the weather will cooperate tomorrow, too.  The forecast is for freezing rain and warming temperatures.  The question will be how accurate the forecast and how the timing of the warming temperatures will be.  I decided to go ahead and post this sermon due to all the uncertainty of the weather.  I pray that this completes the reader’s understanding of this Advent season’s messages.

 

Scripture connections:

 

Isaiah 60:1-7, NLT

“Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see.
For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you.
Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth,
but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you.
All nations will come to your light;
mighty kings will come to see your radiance.

“Look and see, for everyone is coming home!
Your sons are coming from distant lands;
your little daughters will be carried home.
Your eyes will shine,
and your heart will thrill with joy,
for merchants from around the world will come to you.
They will bring you the wealth of many lands.
Vast caravans of camels will converge on you,
the camels of Midian and Ephah.
The people of Sheba will bring gold and frankincense
and will come worshiping the Lord.

7The flocks of Kedar will be given to you,

   and the rams of Nebaioth will be brought for my altars.

I will accept their offerings,

and I will make my Temple glorious.

Matthew 2:1-12, NLT

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men[a] from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose,[b] and we have come to worship him.”

            King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”

            “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:

‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,
are not least among the ruling cities[c] of Judah,
for a ruler will come from you
who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’[d]

            Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”

            After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! 11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

            12 When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.

 

 

Christ: The Christmas Present That Won’t Break

 

            Here it is the day after Epiphany (January 6) and Christmas season is technically over. Yet, when Mother Nature decides to make her presence painfully evident, sometimes we just have to stop and reassess plans. The frigid temperatures that came with Christmas Day provides us a ‘reality check’ as James Moore referenced in his final Advent commentary.

Throughout Advent, the focus has been on the Christmas gifts that won’t break: hope, love, joy, and peace. These are gifts that come wrapped up in the final gift—Jesus. Having to confront the reality of the extreme cold and its risks to the congregation brought a sudden end to the five-week Advent study and Moore addresses this:

. . . sometimes we misread things. Sometimes we misunderstand things. Sometimes we misinterpret things. Sometimes, maybe much of the time we do that with Christmas: We misread and misunderstand what it’s really all about. Before we know it, Christmas has passed us by, and we have missed its warm embrace once again.” (Moore and Armstrong 2017, 108)

 

In these last two weeks, do you find that you are already missing the true meaning of Christmas? Do you need a reality check now that Christmas is over and life’s routines have resumed?

Certainly the cold makes even daily chores difficult. The sunshine helps, but so many days have had clouds and getting up to start a new day—cold new day—is tough. The calendar is empty of special events and family gatherings. The leftover turkey is gone, and you actually are tired of the holiday cookies and candies.

In an odd way, the entire sense of expectation and excitement that surrounds our Christmas traditions feel broken. Yet, for weeks the focus has been on the gifts that won’t break—hope, joy, love, and peace. The final Christmas gift God gave us is his own presence in the form of a human baby we know as Jesus.

Christ’s birth is a gift from God that keeps all the other gifts from breaking and Christ is the greatest gift of Christmas. The gift of Christ is a gift that fits everybody, everywhere, anytime. And the gift of Christ provides endless hope, love, joy and peace. Christ is the unifying, lasting, and priceless gift that keeps the other gifts from breaking.

In Isaiah, the prophecy of the final chapter of the Christmas story is outlined right down to the possibility of the kings following the stars to find Jesus after his birth. Written about 681 BC (19911416), Isaiah 60:1-7, identifies that the kings and caravans [of people] will come from the east, from Midian, Ephah, Shelba, Kedar and Nebaioth. Isaiah even adds that the gifts they bring will be gold and frankincense (no reference to myrrh though).

The ancient Israelites remained faithful and hopeful. The literature of the Old Testament weaves the prophecy in and out that God would send a savior, a Messiah, a king to ‘save’ them. The Bible stories are filled with examples of how faith in God makes our earthly lives manageable. Moore explains faith:

Realizing that we can’t make it, that we are down and out, that we need help, God sends us a Savior. In Jesus Christ, God comes into our world . . . to pick us up, to hold us up, to see us through, and to bring us home. (Moore and Armstrong 2017, 112)

 

The birth of Christ did not end the trials and tribulations of the faithful Jewish people. In fact, the Bible continues to share the struggles of the people in the Gospels and the other books of the New Testament.   The faithful maintained hope that “God cannot be defeated,” as Moore continues:

Even though evil will sometimes make loud noises in our world, as Christians we can be confident. We can be filled with hope because we know that ultimately God and righteousness will win. And just think of it: God wants to share the victory with us. That’s why the Christ Child came into the world . . . to bring the good news of God’s ultimate victory. That is our hope. (Moore and Armstrong 2017, 113)

 

The birth of Jesus Christ gave us the gift of hope and the gift of love. By joining us on this earth, God came to teach us how to love one another. In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, God’s plan is explained:

     And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus . . .

. . . 10 God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.

     12 Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.

 

God’s gift of the baby Jesus Christ was how the plan was completed. The faithful, whether Jew or Gentile, accept that Jesus Christ, as God in human form, came to teach us how to love one another.

Moore uses an anecdote from Bill Hinson about building a doghouse for his daughter’s new puppy, Happy. After completing the project, he could not get Happy to go into the doghouse. Only after he gave up and went into the house, did he witness a transformation. He saw Happy wagging his tail, go joyously into the doghouse, and lie down serenely. How come? Hinson’s daughter had crawled inside and only then did he trot in beside her:

. . . Where all those other things had failed, love prevailed. That’s what Christmas teaches us. Love is the single most powerful thing in the world. And in the gift of Christ, we receive the gift of love in the most powerful and perfect way. (Moore and Armstrong 2017, 114)

 

Happy’s story is much like our own. By accepting God’s gift of Jesus Christ, we receive salvation. The Christmas gifts that won’t break make our life journeys one that last through eternity.

Closing prayer:

Dear God,

We celebrate the unbreakable Christmas gifts

of hope, love, joy, and peace.

And most of all, we celebrate the greatest gift,

Jesus Christ, your Son who came to be with us.

We know that because you are here,

our lives are renewed.

Give us the wisdom and courage

to put these unbreakable gifts to work

in our lives throughout the coming year,

knowing that you are with us always. –Amen. (Moore and Armstrong 2017, 117)

Communion notes:

            The cynics might wonder how it is possible to consider that Jesus Christ is a Christmas gift that would not break. The reality of God’s presence in human form is that the body breaks. Our local tradition is to begin each month with the sacrament of Word and Table, aka communion or Eucharist. The very practice recognizes that Jesus, the man, was broken and died on a cross, but God continues.

            Today, we have heard the final chapter of the Christmas story remembering how the wise men came to find Jesus the infant. Their story is found only in Matthew, written to tell how Jesus fulfilled the ancient prophecies. Jesus is God’s gift of love.

            Join us at the table to accept the gift of Jesus Christ who demonstrated how to love one another despite all the trials and tribulations that confront us in our earthly lives.

            Join us by taking the bread and the juice to recommit ourselves to joining in God’s plan to use love as the tool to provide hope, love, joy and peace to one another right here in our own community, our nation, and our world. There is no other gift so unbreakable as God’s love wrapped up in the birth of Jesus Christ.

Works Cited

Moore, James W., and Jacob Armstrong. Christmas Gifts That Won’t Break. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2017.

The Life Application Bible. Vol. NIV. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991.

 

 

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Looking into the Mirror: Would God Hire You?

given on Sunday, January 3, 2015

An opening thought: Today is Epiphany Sunday and it is coupled with communion, as is our local tradition of serving communion on the first Sunday of the month. Epiphany is the final celebration of Christ’s birth while communion is the covenant reminder of Christ’s death: the beginning and the end: the alpha and the omega.

Looking in a mirror does not always reveal the most flattering image of one’s self. Yet using a mirror to inspect one’s appearance may be one of the most important steps before leaving the house. As the mirror image shares with you what it sees, do you approve?

At the local vo-tech school, a full-length mirror is posted just inside the entrance, near the office. Above it is the question: “Would you hire this person?“

Maybe Epiphany is the perfect time to look into a mirror and ask, “Would God hire you to be his messenger?” Epiphany marks the end of the holiday season and the beginning of a new calendar year. Conversations often are filled with a discussion on resolutions.

Resolutions are positive motivators for those who manage to make them and stick to them, but personally that is a struggle. Maybe I should make them, but then when I fail, the emotional fall out is disappointing even embarrassing.

Yet, the change from one calendar year to the next is an excellent time to look into a mirror and check one’s self. Are we satisfied that what we see is someone God would hire?

God, as the creator, designed a world that was to meet the needs of his children—as long as we followed his directions. Yet, we were also given free will and as time moved forward, the choices humans made began eroding the relationship between God and his children. God sent messages and time passed.

By the time God decided to send Jesus personally, he needed a team to carry out the work needing to be done. The surprise Mary and Joseph experienced when the angels visited them, probably left them feeling inadequate. But God saw more than they could see in a mirror.

God needed faithful, good people who could handle all the ridicule others would throw at them. He needed those who could handle unknown battles while Jesus grew up. God knew Mary and Joseph and he tasked them with raising the baby Jesus.

Accepting the roles of Jesus’s parents is what each parent yet today does, too.   If we look into the mirror, do we have the faith modeled by Mary and Joseph? Stepping into another year, evaluate your implementation of John Wesley’s acts of piety.   Could you list them as strengths on a resume or job application?

The Christmas story includes others who demonstrated extraordinary faith. God placed them in positions to tell others about Jesus’ birth. The shepherds followed the angels’ summons to see the baby Jesus with their own eyes.

Shepherds do not leave the pastures or meadows where the sheep are eating. The decision to leave the mountainside was out of the ordinary, but they took the risk. They were eyewitnesses of the most important event, and they carried the story to family and friends. Can you picture yourself risking your job to see a newborn who is not even in your family?

The Christmas story continues. Mary and Joseph came to Bethlehem to register, and now the baby is born, visitors are coming in and so much is changing. Giving birth in ancient days included different practices, and quickly returning home was not an option.

Epiphany celebrates the visit of the three wise men. These men came “thousands of miles” to find the King. Today, would you be so confident in your research that you would travel hundreds even thousands of miles on foot or camel to prove a theory? The conviction to stand by your words is a desirable quality in workers, in spouses, in parents, as well as in friendships.

The skills God needed from the faithful carried the news of Jesus’ birth throughout the millenniums. As the wise men arrived, saw the new king, and shared gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, the truth of the wise men’s theory is realized.

The epiphany or realization that this baby is indeed the Messiah begins a series of events that takes 30 years to unfold. Look in the mirror, has Christmas provided you an epiphany?   As you look into the new year, does the mirror show you what strengths you have to answer God’s call to you? What are the weaknesses that need improving in order to do God’s work?

The three wise men had studied the stars, probably read all the prophets, talked to other wise men, and finally made the decision to set out on a journey to find Baby Jesus. Imagine their epiphany when all the years and all the miles they invested in the search for the new king prove what they predicted.

The story of Jesus, the Messiah, began thanks to the skills and the faith of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the wise men. The story that is shared in the scripture continues to lead us to our own epiphany about the truth of Jesus Christ. As we look into the mirror, may we see what God sees in us—that we, too, have the skills and the drive to continue sharing the story of Jesus Christ.

The Christmas story is the beginning of the New Covenant. God looks for those who have the strength to serve, who have the skills needed, and the faith to trust that as long as we love one another as we want to be loved, we can do all that we can for all those we can in as many ways as we can.

And as Lent quickly races toward us, we look at the mirror to check that we are ready for God to use us. This Epiphany, look in the mirror and prepare to do commit to your covenant with God through the sacrament of communion.

As Matthew was telling the ancient Jewish people, the Old Covenant was replaced with a New Covenant. He shared the story of Jesus’ last Passover:

20 When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve;[a] 21 and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”

The Wise Men visited a baby and knew that he was the King of the Jews. They did not return to King Herod, instead they returned to their own homes—thousands of miles away. For 30 years, the story did not continue as expected. Then for three short years, Jesus changed the world. But the story did not end.

Jesus set into place, the new law based on love. On that last night with the Apostles, Jesus shared the cup and the bread. He commissioned them to carry on the task of loving one another and spreading the good news. This Epiphany Sunday, look in the mirror. Would God hire you to carry on?

As you join in communion, consider the covenant we make with God to share the story. We do have the skills and the strength, each in our own way, to love one another as we want to be loved.   By doing that, we honor and love God above all else.

Closing prayer (UMH 255): The Epiphany Prayer

O God,

You made of one blood all nations,

and, by a star in the East,

revealed to all peoples him whose name is Emmanuel.

Enable us who know your presence with us

ao to proclaim his unsearchable riches

and that all may come to his lift

and bow before the brightness of his rising,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

now and for ever. Amen.

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Gifts to God

This is the sermon planned for January 6, 2014.  The scripture reference is Matthew 2:1-12.  Unfortunately the snow, blowing winds, and extreme cold, services had to be canceled for the best of the members.  Therefore, this sermon is available through WordPress only.  Hopefully everybody is safe and comfortable in their homes this January Sunday.

Okay, the tree is down, the gift wrap is gone, returns and exchanges are done, and the last cookie sits untouched.  Christmas is over, right?  Or is it?

Monday, January 6, 2014, is the first Christian holiday in the calendar year. Epiphany represents the journey and the gifts of the Magi, the Wise Men.  The Magi’s story is read as part of the entire Christmas story, but the story is not necessarily chronological.  One major key to the story lies in the gifts:  gold, frankincense and myrrh.

The story of the three kings is filled with mystery.  No one really knows when they arrived in Bethlehem because other pieces of the story can indicate that they traveled thousands of miles, that they could have not arrived until almost two years later, and they may not have originated from the same location.

Tradition says they were men of high position from Parthia, near the site of ancient Babylon.  How did they know that the star represented the Messiah?  (1) They could have been Jews who remained in Babylon after the Exile and knew the Old Testament predictions of the Messiah’s coming.  (2) They may have been eastern astrologers who studied ancient manuscripts from around the world.  Because of the Jewish exile centuries earlier, they would have had copies of the Old Testament in their land.  (3) They may have had a special message from God directing them to the Messiah.  Some scholars say these wise men were each from a different land, representing the entire world bowing before Jesus.  These men from far-away lands recognized Jesus as the Messiah when most of God’s chosen people in Israel did not.  Matthew pictures Jesus as the King over the whole world, not just Judea.  [Chronological Bible:  p1283]

Yet, the story of the wise men culminates in the gifts.

Remember that the gospel of Matthew is the only one that includes the story of the wise men.  The entire story is only 12 verses long, and it references the prophecy of Micah, not Isaiah.

The Lord says,

“Bethlehem, you might not be
an important town in the nation of Judah.
But out of you will come
a ruler over Israel for me.
His family line goes back
to the early years of your nation.
It goes all the way back
to days of long ago.”
Bethlehem was also called Ephrathah.

Add to this reference, keep in mind the book of Matthew was written to convince the Jewish people to accept Jesus as the savior that they had expected.

Sometimes the message of Christmas is lost in the ribbon and the gift wrap that gets wadded up and tossed away.  By the time Advent is over and Christmas decorations are put away for another year, the story of the three wise men is tossed off to the side, too.

Yet, the story includes a list of three gifts that causes one to wonder at the choices:  gold, frankincense and myrrh.  These are three gifts that may not mean a great deal to us today, 2014, but these three choices were clearly chosen with great care.

Gold might still be valued as the most precious mineral on the earth even today.  Gold’s value is a foundation for the global economy and is sought by almost everybody.  Just turn on the TV and you can find shows featuring the search for gold in the Yukon, the Amazon jungles, the freezing waters of the Bearing Sea, and even the historical shows about the gold rushes of the past.  Gold never loses value.

Symbolically, gold is for royalty.  Studying literature, the symbolism of gold usually connects to themes about kings and queens, about hidden royalty, and about lasting qualities or durability.  Gold is a gift for a king, and in the story of the wise men, gold represents the acknowledgement that Jesus is king of the Jews.

Now frankincense is an unknown element to us today.  We do not connect it with a specific quality or a purpose like the ancient citizens of the world did.  Frankincense was typically burned as incense in the temples, a way to lift prayers to God.  For the Jewish people, the expensive incense immediately connected Jesus to God.  The gift was chosen to signify that Jesus was indeed God.

Finally, the gift of myrrh provided a third purpose.  Myrrh was the perfume, the spice, used upon death to prepare bodies for burial.  By contemporary standards, this gift would seem inappropriate for a gift upon the birth of a child; yet, myrrh was so expensive it was valued and protected.  Symbolically, myrrh was the ultimate gift signifying the human quality of Jesus.  Myrrh completed the gift list for Jesus—a king, God, and man.

As Advent approached, the gift giving frenzy overpowered the significance of the Christian season.  Gift giving is a tradition that we humans have adopted to honor those in our lives.  We spend hours and dollars trying to make sure we have just the right gifts for our family and friends.  Do or did we consider the significance of the gift or did we simply take a wish list and check it off.

Surely the Magi did not have a wish list to use; instead they made decisions based on the qualities they knew Jesus was to posses.  He was to fulfill the prophecy of a king of the Jews.  Jesus was born as a human, yet he was God.  The Magi’s gifts were chosen with a purpose so that others may learn who Jesus was.

Matthew is the only gospel with the story of the three kings, and the reason it is included is to convince the Israelites that Jesus was the king of the Jews.  The Israelites were living a difficult life and Herod was someone they feared.  They anticipated a king who would militarily and politically lead them.  The arrival of a baby did not seem to be the answer.  Yet, the story of the wise men arriving with the gifts answered the arguments for some followers.

The Magi’s story may not be included in the other three gospels as it was not necessary for the intended readers.  The Jewish people needed all the proof they could get.  The story is a gift for us too, as we continue searching for answers.

The gifts the wise men gave Jesus give us the answers, too.  Jesus is God, Jesus was a man, and Jesus served as a king in that he was able to change the Old Law to a New Law, one that simplifies life and overrides all other human law providing us the ultimate gift of eternal life.

Have we accepted and unwrapped the gift?

Have we used and shared the gift?

Do we work to provide the gift of Jesus to others?

As we close our service today, our responsibility is to continue giving the gift of faith to others.  The Christmas season is over, but giving is never over.

Whether the wise men showed up 12 days after Jesus’ birth or whether it took them two years to reach Bethlehem, their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh are gifts that answered the question of who Jesus was for the Israelites, and for us, the gifts remind us the value of giving our best to God.

In order to continue giving to God, we are committed to giving our best in Christian love.  We give to our families, we give to our friends, and we give to our community.  Sometimes the gift is of service and sometimes it is our gold.

The wise men followed God using a star to guide them.  We have their story and many others to guide us toward God.  God’s gifts to us are priceless and unending.  Now our responsibility is to give ourselves to God.  Consider this:

After finding Jesus and worshiping him, the wise men were warned by God not to return through Jerusalem as they had intended.  Finding Jesus may mean that your life must take a different direction, one that is responsive and obedient to God’s Word.  In what ways has Jesus affected

the direction of your life?  [Chronological Bible: p. 1285]

Your answer is a clue to how well you have given your gifts to God.

Closing prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father,

The calendar now reads 2014 and we return to routines

filled with alarm clocks ringing and chore lists to complete.

Quickly the excitement of Christmas gifts and family gatherings

fade into our memories as we pack away the decorations.

Keep our lives centered and our eyes on the Christmas star

as we take giving gifts to others, to giving gifts to God.

As the winter chills our bodies, let our hearts be warmed

with learning new ways to give as God gives to us.

May we experience the joy of giving, a sense of peace in our hearts

as God gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit

and the promise of eternal life.            –Amen

 

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Epiphany: The Ah-ha Moment

given on Sunday, January 6, 2013

         Today is Epiphany, according to the Christian calendars, and we have all resumed our typical daily routines after the holiday celebrations.  These routines are almost a relief after such craziness as the holidays often create.  And yet today is Epiphany.  Why?

Traditionally, in our American lives, we know that Epiphany is the 12th day after Christmas and that by now schools have resumed.  We know that typically this is the very last Sunday we talk about the Christmas story until Advent returns 11 months from now.  And, in a sad manner, we have nothing to celebrate for quite a while.

Yet, today is Epiphany.  If it is on the calendar, then we should understand the significance—shouldn’t we?  The four scriptures assigned to this particular day remain the very same for all three years of the common lectionary.  That emphasis should provide a key to this day’s importance:

  1. Isaiah 60:1-6—the prophecy of the coming ‘light’
  2. Psalms 72:1-14—the prayer for a king with a list of qualities
  3. Ephesians 3:1-12—Paul’s explanation of his personal transformation aka as an epiphany
  4. Matthew 2:1-12—the story of the Three Wise Men

Probably the Psalms selection is the least familiar as I do not think it is used that frequently in telling the Christmas story, but it is significant if you look at the qualities outlined in those verses:  (read excerpts only)

1-8 Give the gift of wise rule to the king, O God,
the gift of just rule to the crown prince.
May he judge your people rightly,
be honorable to your meek and lowly.
Let the mountains give exuberant witness;
shape the hills with the contours of right living.
Please stand up for the poor,
help the children of the needy,
come down hard on the cruel tyrants.
Outlast the sun, outlive the moon—
age after age after age.
Be rainfall on cut grass,
earth-refreshing rain showers.
Let righteousness burst into blossom
and peace abound until the moon fades to nothing.
Rule from sea to sea,
from the River to the Rim.

9-14 Foes will fall on their knees before God,
his enemies lick the dust.
Kings remote and legendary will pay homage,
kings rich and resplendent will turn over their wealth.
All kings will fall down and worship,
and godless nations sign up to serve him,
Because he rescues the poor at the first sign of need,
the destitute who have run out of luck.
He opens a place in his heart for the down-and-out,
he restores the wretched of the earth.
He frees them from tyranny and torture—
when they bleed, he bleeds;
when they die, he dies.

 

The list of traits or styles of leadership is ideal.  Living in a society that exemplifies these principles is living in a human utopia.  Isn’t that what God established for us!  Then we made a mess of it.

Isaiah’s excerpt shows us that human nature had taken over and there was a need for change.  The prophecy spoken in those verses emphasizes the need for a Messiah.  The world was failing to follow God.  Yet despite all the priests praying and creating all kinds of laws, the people were not staying focused on God.  Something needed to be done, there needed to be an epiphany if people were to be saved.

Continuing with the scriptures assigned for Epiphany Sunday, look at the verses from Matthew.  These verses are very familiar to us.  We include them every year in the readings for Advent and the Sunday after Christmas.  Here in Matthew is arrival of the New King and the revelation of the star that the three kings discovered.

Where does that leave us today?  Over 2,000 years after the Christ child was born, we are once again facing a world filled with evil.  We need leaders who value humanity regardless of race, creed or wealth.  We need an epiphany!

Why do we need an epiphany?  Look back to the origin of the word.  Using the term for a more common use, epiphany is defined as “a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.”  Delving deeper into the origin of the word, according to Dictionary.com, the word first was used in Middle English when the Greek word epiphaneia was translated from the Late Latin term epiphania basically meaning an apparition or something that appeared.

What is an epiphany for us today?  The term is used to mean an awakening to a truth, an ah-ha moment when we finally get a concept or an understanding of a difficult idea.  The ‘ah-ha’ moment may be the best explanation because we experience those at various times in our lives concerning all types of learning.  It might be the moment we realize a baby’s cry means I am hungry or when trying to learn a new math skill or when we read an instruction manual and finally get it.

Today, January 6, may be a Christian holiday celebrating that Christ is the Messiah, that Christ is God himself walking side by side with us right here on the earth’s surface.  Paul’s letter to the Ephesians describes his personal epiphany.  Our study and understanding of Paul’s experience is built around his walk to Emmaus when he was struck down with blindness.  God had to cause a physical disability to show Paul that Jesus was the Messiah.  Paul’s epiphany truly was an ‘ah-ha’ moment in which he honestly saw the light that came with understanding.

We each need a personal epiphany.  Right now in our culture we are constantly being challenged to maintain our focus on God.  We confront the secular world filled with enticing things and we become blind to God.  God loves us.  God gives us everything we need.  With God at the center of our lives, we discover blessings all around us.  We need an epiphany.

As we begin another calendar year, do not be discouraged.  The news that feeds to you through the screen in your home is not the reality of God’s world; it is the reality of the human world—created by humans.  Identify God in your world, use God as the filter for your viewing, and know that God is in control—as long as we allow him to be in control.

When God’s reality is acknowledged, the epiphany happens.  Prayerfully, following the tradition of celebrating the holiday Epiphany we can see our own truth, identify our personal epiphany, and even share our ‘ah-ha’ moments with others so they too may know the reality of God in their lives.  The ‘ah-ha’ experience has the potential to transform each one’s individual lives; and if Christians around follow Paul’s example after his epiphany, the world will transform.

Dear Watchful Father,

On this Epiphany Sunday, let us see Your light.

Show us the way to love one another day after day.

Show us the truth of the scriptures so we reach understanding.

Show us the transformations that accompany true faith.

Give us the strength to share with others as Paul shared his epiphany.

Let our faith be a beacon of Your light to others.  –Amen

 

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