Friday, December 30, 2016
The birth of Jesus is told in the Gospels with compelling power. The Christian community wanted the world to know that “the Word became flesh and lived among us.” John 1:14 The revelation of God’s love for humankind took place in flesh and blood.
The Christian community in the fourth century began to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The focus was on January 5 and 6. That celebration emphasized the Baptism of Jesus and the miracle of water being turned into wine at the wedding feast in Cana and the arrival of wise men from the East following the star that led them to Jesus, the Child of Promise.
The Epiphany feast triggered the celebration we know as Christmas. We celebrate Epiphany as the manifestation of Jesus Christ as the son of God and the savior for the whole world. Some call Epiphany, Three Kings Day. Were there just three Kings? We don’t know. The Bible mentions three gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Traditionally, it marks the physical manifestation to the Gentiles.
In 2017, we celebrate Epiphany on Sunday, January 8 by participating in the Sacrament of the Holy Communion.
Oh yes, there is that silly song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” It points to the celebration of Epiphany.
God bless you again in 2017.
Friday, December 23, 2016
I love all that characterizes Christmas! Yes, it is exhausting. The free nights in December on my calendar you can count on one hand. The decorations, lights, music, gifts, parties, family celebrations and the fun of making Christmas special for others – what a privilege.
What we celebrate is the Incarnation, God in human flesh and blood. The birth of Jesus is not a myth. Rather, it is an event surrounded in mystery. God, who is beyond our comprehension, has made his love known not only in his creation but specifically in his incarnation in Jesus Christ. That mystery is worthy of our best spectacles - our finest celebrations.
The reality of God’s encounter with us is overwhelming. Thankfully, God did not reveal himself as some impersonal force, or as just another human being. He gave us his son, Jesus. “You shall call his name Jesus for he shall save his people from their sins.” That was the Angel’s message. Mary got it, Joseph got it.
Christmas is a fresh opportunity to encounter Jesus Christ. We do this through faith and repentance. God wants to bless us with his persistent love and mercy. I am counting on the mercy. There is more mercy in God than sin in us. Thank you, Lord.
God bless you again in 2017.
Friday, December 16, 2016
I went to the Container Store. That is gift wrap heaven! Bows and boxes, tins and totes, ribbons and wrap… it is tough to choose. Gift wrap is important. The question is, do the trappings trump the contents? This year we will spend $3 Billion on gift wrap.
In Bethlehem, there were no trappings to trump the contents. This was no casually wrapped baby boy. Oh yes, it was a regal wrap, God gives us his son, Jesus, to save us from our sins; to spare us from alienation, estrangement, guilt, shame and sin. Romans 6:23, has it, “The free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.’
Christmas excels in gift-giving. The ultimate gift is not found under a tree. God’s gift to us is to wrap his mercy around our guilt, to wrap his peace around our violence, to wrap his love around our loneliness.
“To you is born this day in the city of David, a savior, who is Christ the Lord.” At Christmas we celebrate the mystery of the incarnation, not a myth. Our rational gifts can only take us so far. What we need is revelation.
Jesus Christ is not a truth we master but the truth before which we surrender. The question that should fill our moments in reflection is this: will we allow ourselves the mystery of God’s embrace of grace in Jesus Christ?
T.S. Eliot said, “The tragedy of Christmas is to have the experience and miss the meaning.”
Friday, December 9, 2016
Epiphany means appearance or manifestation. Christians celebrate Epiphany after New Years as the manifestation of Christ for the whole world. The wisemen came bearing gifts for the Christ-child. They represented the whole world. The world, all people, needed a savior not just the Jews.
Epiphany is really the bridge between Christmas and Easter. The two are inevitably connected. We look back and forward. It serves as a reminder of what we are supposed to be. We spend most of our lives conjugating three verbs; to want, to have, and to do. These three verbs are transcended by the verb to be. The essence of the Christian life is tied up in being. Jesus called us to be salt, yeast and light in this world. The living Christ has begun something in you and me from which we cannot escape – something that will not let us go. “I am with you always.”
The wisemen from the East followed a star to the manger and they knelt in humility before the Christ. Somehow, they saw in Jesus, hope. Hope for the healing of our brokenness. Alan Paton said it, “I need a star that will not play false with me, a compass that will not lie.”
I have found that only in Jesus Christ.
Friday, December 2, 2016
Christmas is headed our way! How do you know? The mall music and decorations, advertisements, catalogs, Christmas trees for sale and gift lists sent to grandparents. Plans are coalescing for celebrations.
The Incarnation, the birth of Jesus, was the fulfillment of an Old Testament promise. In fact, 332 Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus. Isaiah said it, “In those days and at that time, I will cause a righteous branch to spring up for David and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.”
The God we worship is a God of promise. God keeps his promises. The birth of Jesus was a promise validated. Yes, probably it happened in a stable and in the back of a Bethlehem Inn. An adolescent mother, a pungent smell, a feed-box for animals, and through it all, God gave us a Savior. Why? Because God knew we could not save ourselves. That birth changes the entire course of history. Art, music, literature, education and medicine all were transformed through that miracle birth.
Since the birth of Jesus, millions of people have discovered not just a new way of understanding life but a new way of living life. Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life and that more abundantly.”
Jesus Christ is not a truth that you master but a person before whom you surrender.