Before the Baptism of the Lord – Epiphany, Mine and Jesus’: All the Passages

(Prologue: I discovered Friday evening, for some reason, this did not post. Here it is, for your late night reading, or for early morning along with Saturday’s post.)

Earlier this evening of the day I sat down to write, I had my own little “epiphany” – small letters. As you may remember, beloved reader, earlier this week I had survived a traumatic event. The actual event is less important than the fact that it shook me to my very core. And I was not sure where to go from that point, and how to get there. By the next day I could write with a little more strength, but still, I was feeling fragile, shaken, and not at all sure where to go from that point.

So this evening I took stock of all that had gone on, and my utter fear and fury that I had to be strong and recover from this. I raged at the universe and at the Lord that I had to be strong and get through. “Who says I have to overcome all of this?!” I raged. “Who says I can and have to be strong in the face of this?!” I wept. “Who says this is fair and required of me?!” I yelled. “Who says I can do this?!” was my plea. And then in a small voice, but a voice that I knew as my own, I asked, “Who says I can’t do this?”

“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms. Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD.” (Isaiah 60:1-6)

Now I am no fool or egotist. I know that much of this verse can and is ascribed to the Lord who was born, found by Wise Men, and grew to be baptized by John. And whatever I have been able to do and regain in terms of strength and resolve has not been based just on my humanity but the Holy Spirit within me and Jesus Christ as my mentor. And as much as I forswear I could not move forward, I have. And I praise God.

“Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son. May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice. May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness. May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor. May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations. May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth. In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more. . . . . May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts. May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service. For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight.” (Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14)

I would be just as foolish to believe that this all happened to me just so I can exhort and encourage you, beloved reader. That what befell me happened so that I could write about it and to you, using this scripture, making point after point, and plea after plea that you might look to the Lord. No, it happened because bad circumstances and the poor judgment of someone else brought about this tragedy on me. And more to the point, I probably would have strung all of these scripture passages together anyway. But if my misfortune can serve a higher purpose, who am I to turn away from it? So, I am NOT taking a page from Paul’s play book!

This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles– for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power. Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.” (Ephesians 3:1-12)

Although I have every confidence that what Paul did and said was inspired by God and motivated by devotion to the Lord. But, let us continue on in reading the passages for this day.

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; . . . “ (Matthew 2: 1 – 3)

“All Jerusalem with him” Well, when my situation was made known, I received comfort and sympathy; but I don’t think those around me took upon themselves the distress and upheaval of emotions that I had. In fact I remember thinking how could they remain so calm and in control when I felt the situation called for falling apart! But then neither did they have any definitive answers ready to resolve the situation.

“ . . . and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'” (Verses 4 – 6)

It took time for me to pull myself together, make a plan of what needed to be done, and than start working on the plan. Granted, it took a good many people to contribute their part to my plan, and it was in working with them that things slowly started coming back together. And it will take still other people to play a role in the successful resolution of my misfortune and loss – they doing their part, and me doing my part.

“Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Verses 7 – 11)

The Wise Men did their part in finding and paying homage to the human child Jesus while recognizing his divinity and paying homage to it. They also did their part in NOT leading Herod directly to the baby Jesus. The Wise Men found a different way. And ever since then people who have paid homage and have believe in God and Jesus Christ have found a different way to live rather than allowing human agenda and need guide their lives.

“And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.” (Verses 12)

As each event in my life unfolds, I have tried to respond to it as Christ would, and according to the model of compassion and caring that Christ left us. I do not always succeed. And when I do succeed it is more of Divine intervention then my own abilities. But I feel okay about saying that because I know our Lord God is so deeply set in my bones and spirit that the Lord’s guidance is a part of my daily life. So here I am, beloved reader, on the other side of a very, very difficult time – once again! Selah!

 

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First Sunday After Christmas Day: The Post-Christmas Story

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” (Luke 2:22-23)

Now, as then, children are brought before God, thanking the Divine for new life. And asking the Divine for strength, guidance, and wisdom to raise the child well. Family and friends gather around to support the parents and the child. Celebrations are held and there is rejoicing. However, Mary and Joseph were probably alone, without family. But God provided these young parents and this holy child with support nonetheless.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:24-32)

Do you think, beloved reader, that these young parents might have felt a bit bewildered? It was challenging enough taking care of a new born infant in an unfamiliar city, but to raise up a son who would do all the things prophesied about him. Many new parents need advice and assurance, blessing and encouragement and I am glad to read that Mary and Joseph received this. But that was not all that they received. They were told early on that their son would be special, bringing to mind what the angel told Mary and Joseph, and added to by these experiences during the early days of Jesus’ life.

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:33-35)

One of the things I never tire of reading in the nativity story is that Mary pondered things in her heart. I think that is one of the reasons she was chosen as the mother of Jesus. She could hear all these things, think about them in her heart, and yet carry on doing the tasks that were expected of her as a wife and mother. She was not alone is this trait as a woman and a woman of God.

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”(Luke 2:36-37)

It is my hope that Mary received good advice and support, not only in being a young wife but also being a mother to a very special child. I suspect that God, over the years, provided both Mary and Joseph with the support they needed.

When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.(Luke 2:38-40)

At this point the gospels grow silent. What stories there are about Jesus’ growing up years are apocryphal in nature. Perhaps it is enough to know that during the years that Jesus to adulthood, God granted resources and blessing so the years past smoothly. And the epistles give fuller evidence that God has chosen and ordained that it would be so.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.” (Galatians 4:4-7)

Just God prepared the way for Jesus to grow into the Christ, God has also prepared a way for us to grow into being children of God. Being fully human, we sometimes lose our way and need to come back crying out “Abba”, recommitting and renewing ourselves through God’s grace and mercy, so that we might be still and again children of God. Selah!