“After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.” – Luke 2:46-47
Many of us go through a life of discipleship. It could be sitting at the feet of Grandma and learning how to knot. Or sitting on the floor of the garage watching Dad breakdown an engine of the family station wagon. Discipleship being a learning time. A time to grow in our understanding of who we are and where we are going, while also coming to a greater understanding of the world around us.
“Allow it for now, because this is the way for us to fulfill all righteousness.” – Matthew 3:15
As we make our way through the season of Epiphany, the time in which Jesus is manifested to us as who he is for us, we leave the Magi behind and move thirty years into the future at the bank of the Jordan River. There we find John the Baptist doing his work of baptism and preaching, calling for the people to turn from their own perceived righteousness and fall upon the mercy of God. It is there, with the waters of baptism, that John is preparing to make known this Jesus who will come “to baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” In the Gospel of John, John the Baptist declares that he came baptizing with water so [Jesus] might be revealed.” (John 1:31) There in the water John is applying the work of the kingdom, repentance and forgiveness of sins, to all who are washed in that river until the One comes who is the embodiment of forgiveness.
“Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star at its rising and have come to worship him.” – Matthew 2:2
January 6th, in the church calendar, is the Festival of the Epiphany of Our Lord. It is when much of the world celebrates the coming of the Magi to the house in Bethlehem to pay homage to the Baby born to die, and commemorates the end of Christmas. Epiphany means the “ta-da” of God. All the spotlights, all the signs pointing to God with hopes that you will see and believe. It makes up a whole season in which we read of the different times in which Christ was made manifest as God-con-carne for your sake. The story of Matthew 2:1-12 is the story of the Nations coming to Christ. Recognizing, in this Baby, something more than just a gurgling infant in golden diapers. Notice the magi call him “The King of the Jews”, and yet these magi are not Jews, but gentiles. Magi is the word used to name them. Literally – magicians, sorcerers, astrologers. They were the court advisors to the princes of Babylon. The ones the king sought for guidance on what has, is, or will happen. These Magi possibly would have had a taste of this Jewish heritage, this Messiah talk, “King of the Jews”, through the overwhelming influence of Judaism on Babylon itself. From Babylon and Persia we get the Rabbinic tradition and huge commentaries on the various texts of Jewish Scripture. Babylon, along with the vast empire of Persia (which is modern-day Iran, Syria and elsewhere), helped keep Judaism alive throughout the Middle East. Strange that we rely on those who conquered the People of God to keep the faith and traditions alive. Strange to think that those who would lead God’s people into exile now seek the very King who is to provide salvation to all people.
What is it about the New Year that gets us all riled up? Based on what I have seen of the commentary on 2019, and the expectations of 2020, so many of my acquaintances and colleagues, plus many of the cultural commentators on the world stage, have been quoted as saying – “2019 sucked!” It was a bad year. Everything went wrong. Every illness came. Deaths we did not want to see happened, and very little life grew. People lost their jobs, accidents injured our bodies and souls, words were spoken that can never be returned. All in all, 2019 was horrible, so we think.
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness. You have enlarged the nation and increased its joy. The people have rejoiced before you as they rejoice at harvest time…” – Isaiah 9:2-3
It is that time of year again. We are finishing up the Christmas season and heading into Epiphany. We are seeing the temperatures stay cold and the darkness still loom. But just as our daylight has begun to lengthen since December 21st, so too has the Light of our hearts been lengthen by the Advent of our God. We waited and watched. We looked for the Messiah as we always do each December, and here he is now. Born in that manger, and we can sense his presence, just as we feel the increase in the sun upon our faces as we head towards Spring.