Monday, January 6th was Epiphany. Some know it as the day to take down our Christmas trees because the 12 days of Christmas have passed. But we also know it as the day that Christ was made known to the Magi in Bethlehem. The story is found in Matthew, chapter 2. It’s interesting to me that the story of the Magi’s journey and visit to the Christ child is longer than the story of the Christ child’s birth, which tells me that Matthew thinks this story is important for us to hear and know. A key point in the story is worship.
The twelve days of Christmas are rushing by us. That means cleaning up the decorations and finishing the leftovers. A new year, a new decade, is upon us. That means it is time for resolutions and new beginnings. In the Church, the next festival is January 6th – The Epiphany of Our Lord. That means we celebrate the way in which God is revealed to us in Christ’s incarnation, teaching, ministry, death and resurrection.
In churches throughout North America and Europe, manger scenes, complete with blonde-haired, blue-eyed versions of baby Jesus, are ready for the celebration of Christmas. Of course, this representation of Jesus is historically inaccurate (and many pastors, including this one, seem to relish pointing out the inaccuracy). If our representations of the Christ child lead us to an exclusive Messiah, one that looks like us to the exclusion of others, then we have a problem… a heresy, really.
It has been a particularly difficult few weeks in our shared life together. By my count, there are currently eight families in our community who are navigating grief and mourning in the midst of a season that is supposed to be all about hope and expectation. After all, the shopping malls have proclaimed this the happiest and most wonderful time of the year with calls to put emotions that are anything but joyful on the backburner until some other, more “appropriate”, time in the future.
A lot has happened in the world over the last week. Last Thursday, the schedule said, “Give thanks.” So, with tables piled high with food and football on the TV, we gave thanks for all the stuff we possess, and the loved ones who benefit. Seems we also took note of what we did not have in the process, because “Black Friday” called us to rush into every available retail outlet to push, shove, and harangue to get whatever we lacked to make life full.
My mother refused to stuff the stuffing in the turkey. A nurse by training, it seemed to her a health risk. Making the cavity of a turkey into a petri dish of simmering bacteria was not going to happen in our house on her watch. Instead, the stuffing went into a “cornflower” Corningware dish and was baked until it formed a crunchy top. That is an indelible (so far!) Thanksgiving memory for me. No doubt you have yours too.
I love All Saints Day. It is, hands down, one of my favorite festivals in our liturgical calendar, right up there with Christmas and Easter.
This weekend as we gather for worship, we will install our new intern Garth Englund. Installations are important. If you were to do a word search on “installation,” you would find listed; appliance installation, TV installation, followed by installation of a pastor, then installation of other church leaders. Although this list contains quite a variety of installations, there is one thing all installations have in common. An installation is the putting in place of something or someone. But what does that mean when we are referring to a pastoral intern?