- 6th January 2010
- Filed under: advent
Okay, I know some of you are saying, “Move on, already,” but I had to see this thing through to Epiphany. And today, January 6, is the official day of Epiphany, which marks the revelation of God made man in Jesus Christ. The word means “revelation,” usually a life-changing one. To move us out of Christmas and into the next chapter of the story, I like these words by John Donne, 16th century poet, from an essay called “The Showing Forth of Christ”:
“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for my eyes have seen thy salvation.” Luke 2:29-30
“The whole life of Christ was a continual Passover; others die martyrs but Christ was born a martyr. He found a Golgotha, where he was crucified, even in Bethlehem, where he was born; for to his tenderness then the straws were almost as sharp as the thorns after, and the manger as uneasy at first as the cross at last. His birth and his death were but one continual act, and his Christmas day and his Good Friday are but the evening and the morning of the same day. And as even his birth is his death, so every action and passage that manifests Christ to us is his birth, for Epiphany is manifestation. Every manifestation of Christ to the world, to the Church, to a particular soul is an Epiphany, a Christmas day. …
To be able to conclude that you have had a Christmas day, a manifestation of Christ in your souls, you shall have a whole Good Friday, a crucifying and an ‘it is finished,’ a measure of corrections, and joy in those corrections. You shall have temptations, and a Resurrection and an Ascension, an inchoation and a n unremovable possession of heaven itself in this world. Make good your Christmas day, that Christ be born in you, and he who died for you will live with you all the year, and all the years of your lives, and inspire into you, and receive from you at the last gasp, this blessed acclamation, ‘Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace…’”
- 5th January 2010
- Filed under: advent
Is it when you take down the Christmas decorations? In our family, the tradition of “taking down the tree” on New Year’s Day or New Year’s Eve has been long-standing. I confess to breathing a huge sigh of relief when all of the decorations are stored and packed away — “Whew…now I can move on with my life!” My friend hates the day when the decorations are gone, because to her it signifies a long stretch of sameness — dreary, cold weather and daily routine that seems endless. I can see her point. When does your Christmas season officially end?
Is it when you go back to work or when you or your kids go back to school? Some of you went back to work yesterday after perhaps too many days at home with the family! My high schoolers will return to school today, with the dismal prospect of exams next week weighing over them. My college students have another week before cracking the books. I have friends with young children who would have shown up at the preschool door yesterday and begged them to take their children a day early if they had thought it would do any good.
Is it with the Feast of Epiphany, which some will celebrate in churches this Sunday? This day marks God’s revelation to “all peoples” through the visitation of the Magi. If your church follows such a calendar, this day provides a clear marker to the “official end of Christmas.”
However you mark it, the Christmas season will come to an end within the next week or so. And yet, the meaning of Christmas, the Incarnation of Christ, the fact that Christ came in the “likeness of sinful flesh” (meaning that he was fully human, fully God and without sin) makes a difference every day of the year. It is an amazing story, with a plot unlike any other. As the season comes to a halt, I encourage us all to remember the story of Christmas (“Christ’s mass” — the celebration of Christ as Lord), every day.
- 4th January 2010
- Filed under: faith
Do you every wake up worried? My habit, especially during the winter months, when leaving the cozy warmth of my quilt presents an extreme challenge, is to lie in bed and think of, pray about the people and plots that come to mind. Today, I woke up worried: What if — I made a mistake here? What if – such and such doesn’t turn out well? And so on and so on. It was so disturbing I departed my nest fairly rapidly this morning, hoping activity would chase my restless thoughts away.
That’s where this blog comes in. Searching for the words to bring you today, I turned to January 5 in Bonhoeffer’s devotional, which offered a headline that stopped me in my tracks. (Yes, Mom, I know it’s JANUARY 4 — your birthday:) and may you be richly blessed indeed! One of my worries was whether or not I will ever find where I hid your birthday present:)!) If you are like me, prone to worry and wander, check this out, and remember you don’t have to worry about yesterday or today either. God is in the business of redemption:
Possessions delude the human heart into believing that they provide security and worry-free existence, but in truth they are the very cause of worry. For the heart that is fixed on possessions, they come with a suffocating burden of worry. Worries lead to treasure, and treasure leads back to worry. We want to secure our lives through possessions; through worry we want to become worry-free, but the truth turns out to be the opposite. The shackles that bind us to possessions, that hold us fast to possessions, are themselves worries. The misuse of possessions consists in our using them for security for the next day. Worry is always directed toward tomorrow. In the strictest sense, however, possessions are intended only for today. It is precisely the securing of tomorrow that makes me so insecure today. ”Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:34b). Only those who place tomorrow in God’s hand and receive what they need to live today are truly secure. Receiving daily liberates us from tomorrow. Though for tomorrow delivers us up to endless worry.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I Want to Live These Days with You
For reflection: Think of one thing you are worried about today. Write it down on a sticky note or an index card or a sheet of paper. Write a prayer below it, something like, “Lord, take this [possession, relationship, work, child...] from me. I am trying to [hold onto it, control it, solve it, fix it...] and it is YOURS. I trust you to redeem this story. I believe, help my unbelief.”
- 3rd January 2010
- Filed under: Sabbath
“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested [a] from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” Genesis 2:1
Good morning, faithful readers. Today I have an announcement of one change I am making for the New Year. I will no longer post on Sundays. I don’t work on Sundays. I don’t work out on Sundays. I really try to preserve my mind and body by keeping Sunday a day of rest from the ordinary as much as possible. After posting 125 consecutive days, it occurred to me that as much as I enjoy and even look forward to thinking about what I will post each day, burnout could come unless I am wise. So from now on, there will be new posts on Sundays. Please visit anyway and read some old posts for encouragement from The Story. Please make sure you check back on Mondays, because there will be something new for you then. I am grateful for you, readers, and pray that this site may continue to offer you helpful meditations and stories on what it means to learn, live, and love in the gospel.
- 2nd January 2010
- Filed under: advent
It is a temptation to get lost in the world’s rhythm of the Christmas season, forgetting the music of the gospel story.
Today I went back to Matthew 2, where wise men show up in Jerusalem asking where the new King of the Jews is — they want to worship him! Herod, the tyrant, is terrified and angry, and sends the men off to find the Messiah and report back to him, so he can purportedly ‘worship’ him. They discover Jesus and worship him but are warned not to return to Herod, so they return to their country by another way. Joseph is warned in a dream to flee to Egypt, because Herod is “on the hunt for this child.” Herod realizes he’s been tricked and orders the mass murder of every child two years old and under in Bethlehem. After Herod’s death, another angel appears to Joseph, telling him it is safe to return home.
Wow, and we think the drama of family Christmases is difficult. It’s quite a story. Eugene Peterson points out that the key verb in the passage is “worship.” To worship means more than singing in church. It is submitting to a ruler, surrendering our small stories to the King’s larger story. The wise men came a long way to find the Messiah, and they must have realized at some level the risk of suggesting to Herod that another King had been born. Joseph and Mary probably didn’t want to head off to Egypt with their baby the Messiah. But worshiping God often demands disruption of our plans for a simple life. Worshiping the Messiah is a difficult and even dangerous business.
To ponder: As you move into this New Year, take an inventory of what you worship: things, people, places, that give you a sense of security and significance. Ask God to show you which of these might have taken His place in your heart. Thank Jesus for being a Messiah who saves you from worshiping tyrants and draws you to follow him for your good and God’s glory! Spend some time dreaming about what disruptions God might have planned for your story as you worship Him.