Epiphany – A New Way of Seeing

Wise menWhen I was a child, we celebrated every day of Epiphany.  Its a big word, but my mom would tell us even little kids can understand big words if they’re explained right.  Epiphany, she explained, was the 12 days it took the Wise Men to follow the star and reach the baby Jesus.  She also told us that an epiphany meant something that causes us to see the world differently.  Like the birth of Jesus.

 

In our house, the Wise Men didn’t even make an appearance as part of the nativity until Christmas.  And then, they started out somewhere in the kitchen, far away from the nativity scene in the living room.  Every day, we moved them a bit closer.  We would talk about their journey, where they slept, we named the camels and we talked about them stopping in to see Herod, a king without honor who didn’t speak the truth.  She and my dad talked about how excited the kings were when they found Jesus, Mary and Joseph, not in the stable but in a house.

Puppy in a basket 2

A puppy for Jesus?

We talked about the gifts they brought for the baby and how odd they seemed.  Not a toy in sight.  We learned that the gold  was presented as a gift of value, the frankincense as perfume because olden time people didn’t bathe often and the baby’s world should smell sweet, and the myrrh was an oil to place on the baby announcing that this was the baby  King.  We talked about what we would have brought to baby Jesus.   Toys, soft clothes, real blankets, a pillow, a mobile with animals, a bassinet, something that played lullabies.  Maybe a puppy.

We spoke about Herod the Horrible as my sister Carla called him.  How could he be jealous of a baby?  And he lied to kings!  Who wants to hurt a baby?  (Okay, I did try to throw my sister Carla out a window when she was an infant but I meant to throw her to my mom who was gardening in the back yard.  Carla wouldn’t stop crying no matter how fast I rocked her bassinet and I knew my mom could make her stop.  In my defense, I was only 3.  And I trusted my mom’s ability to catch her.)

My mom described a dream that came to the kings that warned Herod meant to hurt Jesus and so they went home a different way.  She asked us about dreams that we had.  She explained that taking a different way home was a way to see new things or old things in a new way.  That we should never be afraid of taking a different way to where we were going.  Plans are meant to change, she implored.

On the last day of Epiphany, the wise men were placed in the nativity.  We shared what we had learned over the last year.  Calling one another weirdos was a bad thing and we had to sit at the kitchen table holding hands and saying nice things to each other when mom overheard us.  Learning to ride a bike was hard but once you learned, it was easy.  Including my younger brother Brad when we played house was a nice thing to do, even if we didn’t like doing it.  That my baby sister Penny cold be bribed to do anything if you had a Hershey bar.

The emphasis my parents put on Advent and Epiphany allowed us to Epiphaniesexperience Christmas not as a day but as an adventure.  Advent was the lead up to Christmas with something to talk about and look forward to.  There was never a let down after Christmas because then we had Epiphany.  We experienced the whole of Christmas, not just the day.

These traditions were a gift that has fed me spiritually my entire life.  I carry such gratitude to parents who taught me reverence for anticipation, revelation and transformation.  It has led to an appreciation of anticipation.  I have learned to enjoy the journey as much as the destination.  I spend time to reflect on what has happened and how that leads me to the next roads taken, new ways of thinking, of being.

May you know the gift of Epiphany and share its startling beauty with the world around you.

Winter reflection 2

Dear God, thank you for your stories that guide us, fill us, make us think and let us know love.  May our lives be filled with epiphanies that change us, see with new eyes and linger in our days with transformed hearts.  Help us see you and your ways with spirits that reflect your love in our world.  Give us courage to act on our new ways of seeing so that the world can see the God in us seeing the God in them.  Rejoicing in Epiphany, Amen.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Red Cups: Who is responsible for spreading the Good News?

Editor’s note: While retailers clear out their Christmas stock, Christians around the world continue to celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas (Dec. 25 — Jan. 6).  

Starbucks_Red_Cups_2015 (1)Much was made about Starbucks move this year to eliminate any message on their holiday cup and go with a straight red cup. Are they trying to get rid of the Christmas message? Are they anti-Christian?

Maybe a better question is who is responsible for spreading the Christmas message?

I love the verse in Luke (2:1-14) that says “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” “

The Good News was not spread on a cup of coffee, by any retailer, or through a text or tweet. The Angels told the shepherds, and the story went out from there…the old fashioned way…through word of mouth.

Who is responsible for spreading the Good News? Not Starbucks…you and me.

Let that be your challenge this Christmas season, to share the Good News with your family and friends (and strangers!) by wishing them a Merry Christmas, in person, and with feeling!

Easter Lut

Since I won’t see you all personally, I will contradict myself and wish you good luck with finals, safe travels, and a very Merry Christmas! I hope to see you at Easter Lutheran during your Christmas break!

“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.””

Merry Christmas!

 

Easter member Chris Cairo wrote the above reflection as part of his special ministry to college students and others, in which he writes to them on a monthly basis to encourage their faith to thrive in their daily lives.

A Call for Personal Action

Reflecting on Advent 2015, The Way of Peace for You

PeacemakersIn these last moments of Advent, let a small part of Matthew sit with your heart.   Matthew 5:9 says “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.

Consider this.  The peace that comes to you when you see the God in others knowing the God in you.  Peace that fills a space where angry emotion could have reigned.  Peace that flows when you do for others without any expectation of repayment or acknowledgement.  Peace that happens when you address injustice and hate.  Peace that comes with the awe of seeing God in creations.

These weeks of Advent heart searching have guided us through many moments of contemplating the way of peace and a way closer to God.  Think of the random acts of kindness made in week 1, the love notes and hearts of peace in week 2, our stockings of joy in week 3 and different ways to bring about peace noted in week 4 as well as our own special gifts of peace.

A call for action.    A new year is beginning and peacemaking is needed in this world – in our families, our workplaces, our schools, our communities, our government, and our churches.    After the tinsel has been packed away, how do we keep this yearning for peace we have cultivated and discoveries of our heart we have uncovered this Advent season alive in our every day?  How does the intimacy with God in these dark days of winter transcend the Christmas season?

The answers will vary for everybody.  Did you make notes in the devotional?  Did you journal about things that pierced your heart this Advent?  Reviewing the activities you have done, the movies you have watched, the books you have read, what comes to you as your way of peace for 2016?  Still not sure?  A great place to begin the search is on Easter’s website.  There are so many ways to find the way of peace in serving each other and our community.

Commit, in this stillness, to answering God’s call for peacemakers.   Mary and Joseph didn’t know all that was to unfold by saying yes to God.  How could they ever imagine?  What could enfold if you say yes to God too?  Can you even imagine?

December 25, Day Six of Week Four – The Way of Peace though Peace

Matthew 2:  1 – 12  “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”  Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared.   And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”  When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.  And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.   Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.”

Dawn

All Is Well Song Link

All is well, all is well
Angels and men rejoice
For tonight darkness fell
Into the dawn of love’s light
Sing A-le, sing Alleluia

All is well, all is well
Let there be peace on Earth
Christ has come go and tell
That He is in the manger
Sing A-le, sing Alleluia

All is well, all is well
Lift up your voice and sing
Born is now Emmanuel
Born is our Lord and Savior
Sing Alleluia, sing Alleluia, all is well

Reflection:  All is well.  Christ is born and again we rejoice.  This day, this Christmas day, for some is filled with hectic chaos and joy.  For others, those missing ones no longer singing here on earth or separated from those they love, the day can be filled with a sadness amplified by expectations of what Christmas is supposed to be.  For a moment, let’s set aside this earthly world, travel back to the manger and sit ourselves on the hay, taking it all in.  The animals, accepting a babe the world had no room for.  Mary and Joseph, dusty and worn from a long journey and an evening of childbirth, swirling in the newfound and palpable love for their son.  A star, shining strong, beaming the good news, glittering white against a dark sky.  Amazed shepherds, at the incredible scene they alone were invited to.  Listen to their story as they tell of the angels filling the sky, scaring them and startling the sheep.  Sleeping in the midst of all around him, is the baby that will change the world forever.  The little town of Bethlehem, its streets quiet as it sleeps through the divine night.  Can you feel the powerful peace that colors the air?  How about the stupefying awe of a newborn, foretold by prophet and right there in front of you?  Can you see the angel that hovers over the manger, fluttering God’s presence?

Action:  No matter what society tells us that Christmas should be, God has already given us the handbook.  For this moment, in the midst of exhaustion or tears, lean back into God with a gratitude packed heart.  Ask him for what you need.  Thank him for what you have been given.  Sing a loud or quiet Alleluia.  All is well.

Dear God, Like the wise men, we rejoice with exceedingly great joy!  Be with us, give us a hope that soothes our hearts, plant in us memories that will ride for a lifetime.  Keep us in the moment of joy filled faces and laden tables of food and family.  In this day, of celebrating, let us remember Bethlehem.  Singing Alleluia, all is well, Amen.

December 24, Day Five of Week Four – The Way of Peace though Peace

Luke 2: 2 – 7  “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  And everyone went to their own town to register.  So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.

Holy STar 2

Oh, Holy Night  Song Link

The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees O hear the angels voices.
O night divine O night when Christ was born
O night divine, O night, O night divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
O night divine, O night, O night divine

Reflection:  The story of Christmas is thousands of years old, but it never gets old in our hearts.  A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices!  Like Mary, we are pregnant – with a trembling hope, with a lively anticipation of something great coming.  As we go about the reflective moments of Advent, the excitement builds.  This is the true magic of Christmas – a babe who turns our world around every day.  Mary did the hard work.  But there is still work to be done.  No one is more humble than Mary in demeanor or circumstance.  If God can perform miracles with her, then it can happen with us.  No matter how ordinary we might think of ourselves, we carry the glory of God within us.  What is it that God is calling you to do?

Action:  Martin Luther King Jr. preached, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  Though we are small, let God work great things in you.  Have a dream!  Be a beam of everlasting light, listening to how he taught us to love one another.   Do something today to help turn the world toward Jesus.  Commit to do something big or small every day.  Then do it.

Dear God, The stars are brightly shining.  Keep our eyes and hearts open to possibilities to bring you to the world.  Let us not be timid with our smiles, with our actions, with our chances to turn the world around.  Sweet hymns of joy we sing, O Night Divine, Amen.

December 23, Day Four of Week Four – The Way of Peace though Peace

Luke 2: 19 “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

MAry and Jesus 5

Breath of Heaven   Song Link

I have traveled many moonless nights
Cold and weary with a babe inside
And I wonder what I’ve done
Holy Father you have come
And chosen me now
To carry your son

I am waiting in a silent prayer
I am frightened by the load I bear
In a world as cold as stone
Must I walk this path alone
Be with me now
Be with me now

REFRAINBreath of heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of heaven
Breath of heaven
Lighten my darkness
Pour over me your holiness
For you are holy
Breath of heaven

Do you wonder as you watch my face
If a wiser one should have had my place
But I offer all I am
For the mercy of your plan
Help me be strong
Help me be
Help me  REFRAIN

Reflection:  This scripture is one short sentence power packed with insight.  Mary knows this baby boy of hers won’t belong to her long.  He is the world’s.  But for these moments in Bethlehem, he is hers.  For this time he is her baby, her’s and Joseph’s.  Her eyes and heart are bursting with all the many thoughts of a new parent.  Marveling at the miracle of a baby that grew inside her.  Counting his fingers and toes.  Touching the soft skin and sinking into the innocence of his eyes.  Knowing love like a mother, a love that can only be badly described because it is immense and powerful.  For now, the world is at bay and he is all hers.  She pulls all of it close to her, swaddling them as gently as the babe in her arms.  She knows the world is coming but for now, it can wait.

Action:  Today, treasure up all the things that matter most to you and ponder them in your heart.  Let it burst with gentle love.  Let that treasure travel with you all day and see where it leads.

Dear God, We are thankful for all the treasures in our lives.  Sometimes we take what matters most for granted.  Our focus drifts elsewhere.  Today, open us so that we may know as powerfully as Mary what makes our world sing with richness of love.  Help us find a quiet moment to ponder it all in our hearts.  Be with us now, Amen.

December 22, Day Three of Week Four – The Way of Peace though Peace

Luke 2: 8 – 15 “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about. So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.”

Welcome to our world

Welcome to our World   Song Link

Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God
You’ve been promised, we’ve been waiting
Welcome Holy Child
Welcome Holy Child

Hope that you don’t mind our manger
How I wish we would have known
But long awaited Holy Stranger
Make yourself at home
Please make yourself at home

Bring your peace into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled
World now breaking Heaven’s silence
Welcome to our world
Welcome to our world

Fragile finger sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart whose blood will save us
Unto us is born
Unto us is born

So wrap our injured flesh around You
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy
Perfect Son of God
Perfect Son of God
Welcome to our world

Reflection:   Remember a couple years ago, when Prince George, future King of England was born? His birth was announced with the traditional formal bulletin displayed outside Buckingham Palace as well as a press release. Gun salutes signaled his birth in the capitols of several countries. The bells of Westminster Abbey were rung as well as many other churches. How differently Jesus’ birth was announced. God chose a host of angels to announce Jesus’ birth but only to a group of lowly shepherds. He put a magnificent star in the sky as guidance – without any directions. The shepherds and the wise men didn’t have GPS or street addresses. Just a star and faith. The people of Bethlehem likely learned of the birth through word of mouth, going about their daily business. Truly a grassroots effort of announcement. Through this humble introduction, God is shouting at us. Great things do not have to be done loudly.

Action: Today do acts of peace or other kindnesses without saying anything to anyone about what you have done. Let your giving be done in secret as is says in Matthew 6. Let it stay with you and God. Thank God for the chance to be a gift to someone else.

Dear God, Thank you for announcing Jesus is such a humble way. Your examples of humility light the quiet path for us. We live in a world where everything, matter or not, is heralded in a spotlight of news, social media and loudness. In this last week of Advent, hear our gratitude for this bit of quiet admonition. With welcoming and waiting hearts, Amen.