Tag Archives: Epiphany

Feast of Epiphany

Christmas if officially over. Yesterday was the twelfth day of Christmas which means today is Epiphany. We celebrate the visitation of the magi or wise men from the East. I have several nativity sets and not all of them have the magi, but many do. Traditionally they wouldn’t appear in the nativity until today, but I always put them in early because I am afraid I would forget other wise.

Often, Epiphany, January 6, does not actually fall on Sunday. We celebrate Epiphany the first Sunday in January regardless of when the actual day falls in the week. It is a joy to actually be able to celebrate on the actual day. The story of Jesus’ birth from Matthew is quite different from Luke. Instead of angels we have a star and instead of shepherds we have travelers, outsiders, foreigners from the East seeking the Christ Child.

Matthew allows us a peek into a more violent world than Luke’s. Herod and his vengeful leadership is an intregal part of the story. After today, the stars come down, the nativity put up for another and all the trees and garlands and lights are turned off. I am always a little bit sad when that happens. I will miss the lights particularly. I also know that we are called to be the light and to share that light with others. Epiphany is the sharing of that light with everyone.

In worship, we reclaimed an old tradition to announce the high holy days of the Christian year in worship. Seeking Christ means to be intentional about committing to worship and each other as Christians. You can find the whole worship service here.

As Christmas ends and Epiphany begins, I am reminded of Howard Thurman’s poem, When the Song of Angels is Stilled:

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flocks,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among people,
To make music in the heart.

May it be so in all of our lives.

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On the Twelfth Day of Christmas

I always wonder where Christmas goes! Here I am once again on the twelfth day of Christmas and tomorrow we celebrate Epiphany. Last year I wrote this about the last day of Christmas. I could write some very similar things this year.

This year, Andrew’s mother died and we celebrated her life in Advent. She died in November, but it was easier for the family to gather after Thanksgiving. The time we had together was wonderful. Family came to our home following December 25 and as usual we had our Boxing Day Open House. This next week, all the food items will be deliver to Open Door to help stock the pantry for those who need it.

The outside lights are lit for the last time. Tomorrow the Grinch will be dark as will all the other lights that brighten the night.

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Tomorrow afternoon if we are not too tired, we will begin the process of taking down the decoration from a dozen or so trees, the garland and switching out the dishes. It will take a week or so. I will miss the lights the most.

The celebration of Epiphany begins the journey of seeking Christ as the magi did long ago. I have several nativity sets, most are gifts from other. This one, was my grandmother’s and I remember her putting it out every year.

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It’s only value is sentimental, but the magi are there, still seeking the Christ Child. I long to be that determined, that faithful, that hopeful. This year, I want to seek Christ all long year. I want to look for Christ wherever I am, with whomever I am with. Like the magi, I want to intentionally be seeking Christ and following the light of Christ. May it be so.

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Loving Our Neighbors

Today we finished up our sermon series “The Character of a Methodist.” Sunday was filled with moments: an update on missions and an invitation to participate, two children who shared why camp changed their lives and faith and every person who came to worship (or received a bulletin in the mail) was given a Valentine. On top of that, it is for many Christians, Transfiguration Sunday, the last Sunday in the season of Epiphany before Lent begins.

We did it all and more in worship. I used the Mass Mutual “The Unsung” commercial from last weeks Super Bowl. It was shown at least half an hour before the kickoff, so many didn’t see it. It’s long for a commercial (two minutes) but for me speaks to what “loving our neighbors as ourselves” looks like. You can find the commercial here.  I recommend watching it, even if you don’t care to watch First UMC service today.

Loving God first with heart, soul, mind and strength is what we are challenged to do as followers of Christ. Loving God is made real in the fullness of the law, which is completed in loving one’s neighbor the same way one loves one’s self. Sometimes I shudder to really think that through: how I treat others, how I love others is a witness, a statement of how I really think, believe, love and live out my faith in God. The final worship service (and others in this series) can be found on the church’s website through this link.

As the season of Lent looms in the next few days, my prayer is that all of us might truly love God and that love be made real in everything we say and do.

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Celebrating Epiphany: The Challenge of Faith

Today at First United Methodist Church we celebrate the Visitation of the Magi or the Feast of Epiphany. In many other churches, particularly those who attend worship on the actual day, January 6, today was the baptism of Jesus. We will celebrate that next week.

This morning, was another moment to breathe and to immerse ourselves in the incarnation, Emmanuel, God-with-us. The story in Matthew 2 is a complex and deeper story then we often believe. The Christmas season and Epiphany are no just sentimental stories that are cute and sweet.

At the heart of them is a God who enters a world filled with violence and hatred and pain. God comes in Christ not when the world ready or perfect, but when the world is broken and needs grace. In worship today, we focused on Epiphany not only as a festival, but as a season where God’s light is there for all. You can watch our worship service in its entirety here: Downtown Alive

As with most Epiphany services, I ended the sermon with Howard Thurman’s poem:

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May these words come true this year! A blessed Epiphany!

 

 

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On the Twelfth Day of Christmas

I am always amazed at how quickly the the twelve days of Christmas fly by. I am not unaware that many people don’t care. Or that the twelve days are used as a countdown to December 25 with sales and promotions all trying to get people to buy more for that first day of Christmas.

In the stores, on the radio and television stations and internet sites, not many care about Christmas after the 25th of December. Oh, there are sales galore, but Valentine’s hearts and flowers are already seen and the next push for sales. Christmas becomes not so much a season as an exercise in surviving too many parties, too many crowds, too much food and drink and often too much money spent on things that do not matter and are easily broken and forgotten

As a pastor, the time leading up to December 25 is filled with year end meetings, extra worship planning, a few more services and events for the church. There are more parties and open houses than I could ever hope to attend and this year, in the midst of Advent, Andrew and I had the joy of celebrating the marriage of one of our children in California. The Advent season itself was shorter, just three weeks, with the fourth Sunday of Advent also being Christmas eve.

All of that is a way of explaining why the twelve days of Christmas are precious to me. I try to savor them, each day. In years past, FAR past, the twelve days were filled with the parties and visits and meals and general “gaiety” we now celebrate prior to December 25. Advent at that time was a period for fasting and penitence and reflection on the incarnation, of God’s gift in Christ. The twelfth day of Christmas is the transition into Epiphany on January 6 (the visitation of the magi, the wise men and a season of celebrating that God is manifest to humanity, ALL of humanity.)

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For those who love trivia, many Orthodox churches celebrate Christmas day on January 7 because aligns with the old Julian calendar and in a dozen or so countries that is a day off and a holiday. I won’t go into detail as it has to do with the switch in calendars from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar.

So the Feast of the Epiphany in the Western is tomorrow on January 6. Epiphany, as a holiday is to celebrate the manifestation of the Christ to the Gentiles (or to all people and all nations). As a word, it means a revelation or an insight. In the midst of the twelve days what has been revealed to me? What insight have gained from the celebration of Christmas?

A friend of mine posted this picture on Facebook to honor the visitation of the Magi. It is from the Catacombs in Rome, specifically of Priscilla.

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This was probably done in the 2nd century. From the earliest days, this event, of magi, wise ones, star gazers from the east was an important event to remember. Christianity has in its beginnings an understanding that Emmanuel, God-with-us is not an exclusive event or for just a few. Christ came for all, that all might experience the love and grace of God.

So on this twelfth day of Christmas, I am seeking insight and wisdom on how God’s love can be made real and true in my life and spirit. I am looking for God’s presence in the word and like Mary, I am pondering all of these things in my heart. Merry Christmas and may Epiphany bring us all new insight and a revelation of God in our midst.

 

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In honor of Epiphany

I love the feast of Epiphany!  Shared in the second chapter of Matthew, the story of the journeying magi who come seeking this child who the stars say is to be king of the Jews.  Once we get past the sentimental images of our children in bathrobes with gold paper crowns and “treasure chests” of plastic jewels the story Matthew tells is full of intrigue, questions and a visit that must have come as such a surprise to Mary and Joseph.

On this day we don’t read the “rest of the story” with what happens after the magi leave, a story of violence and horror that is too real in today’s world. Instead we look at these astrologers, these dreamers willing to travel to find this child of the stars and of their dreams.

In my house, the lights finally go dark after Christmas.  Oh I know, most people turned their Christmas lights out days ago.  I leave mine up so I can truly enjoy them following all the busyness of the Advent season.  Howard Thurman wrote these words that I ponder each Epiphany as I take down decorations and turn off the lights.  Hackingchristianity.net shared this picture and these words on their site.  On this day when we celebrate the light of God shining for all to follow and to find, these words remind me of what is yet to be done

 

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May the work of Christmas continue during the days of Epiphany.  I am graced to serve.

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