2019 January Pastor’s Pen

From the Pastor…

January can be a dismal month.  All of the festivals are over.  Plus, the weather can be brutal.  It’s dark, cold, and snowy.  When we look in our mailboxes those bright, cheerful Christmas cards have been replaced by bills.  The candy and cookies have been eaten and the kids are already bored with their new toys.   It seems like all we are left to do in January is mope around with the post-Christmas doldrums, and try to catch up on the things we put off as we prepared for Christmas. 

          But the good news is that we don’t have to.  After all, the church calendar doesn’t make provisions for being glum.  For though the 12 days of Christmas have come to an end, it concludes on a day that we call Epiphany (January 6th).  Epiphany comes from a Greek word that means “to manifest,” or “to come forth.”  Epiphany celebrates the arrival of the Magi (Wise Men) to visit the baby Jesus, and Christ is revealed to the Gentiles (non Jews).  So the first Gentiles were from the East (probably Persia), and the first Gentiles to acknowledge Jesus as the King, not just of the Jews, but of the whole world! 

          In the early church Epiphany was the big celebration, not Christmas.  The Epiphany observance may have been introduced by the church in Egypt to replace the pagan celebration of the birth of light at the winter solstice.  In any case, on this day of Epiphany (which falls on a Sunday this year), our eyes are drawn heavenward to the star of Bethlehem.  The message is one of light; as we heard it from the prophet Isaiah, “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you and his glory will appear over you.” 

If there is anything that demonstrates to us the magnificence of God’s creation, it is looking up into the heavens on a clear night and seeing thousands of twinkling stars.  Even more profound is seeing a change in the heavens, the movement of the stars from season to season.

          The amazing pilgrimage of the foreigners from Persia to worship and honor this king signaled the fulfillment of this prophecy.  Even though Jesus has come, today many people still search for a savior.  They search the heavens for a sign telling us how we got here and what our destinies are (i.e. astrology).  We look for meaning and purpose everywhere.  When we were baptized, God sent us on a course, but too often we want to go our own way.  We look for order, for connection, for logic.  But what God gives us along the way are surprises.  Just when we think we have our feet firmly planted, God pulls the rug out from under our feet.  The Wise Men, looking for a king, logically went to the palace of the reigning King Herod.  Your go to royalty to look for royalty.  But the child king was not there.  Even though King Herod instructed the Wise Men to find the child for him, saying he wished to worship the child also, God changed the course of the Wise Men, telling them to go home by another way.

          We have a notion of the way life is supposed to be; the course we are supposed to take.  And when our plans go haywire, we cry out, “not fair.”  And indeed, it may not be fair if all we’re going by is our own sense of logic. 

But we ought to expect that God will send us on other courses, too.  Courses we never would have chosen for ourselves.  Yet, when we follow God’s lead by faith, even the most miserable experience can give meaning and purpose.  And this journey is not just for individuals. 

God has called communities, nations and the church.  Indeed God calls us, as a church to reach beyond ourselves.  So this year our journey continues, with new challenges and opportunities.  Let us pray that God will lead us in the direction he wants us to go, not necessarily the one we want. 

             On the Journey with you,