Sunday, January 27, 2008

God illumines my aunt

In the name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

One day in the office my cubicle neighbor turned to me and whispered, "Do you know what it means?" She pointed to the corporate logo: an open book with seven seals, and the motto written on the pages. I looked at it. I wasn't sure. I don't read Latin. So I ventured a guess: "God illumines my aunt?"

Lydia laughed.

The motto of our company, Oxford University Press, was very old, dating back before Columbus, back before Richard II (who signed off on it), back before Christ. It was:

Dominus illuminatio mea: The LORD is my light.

The beginning of the 27th Psalm, our psalm today.

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear? *
the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?

The light that illuminates me - and you - is the Lord.

In the 10th Century before Christ, the prophet Isaiah gave good news to the people of northern Israel, people who were being over-run by the Assyrian empire.

Even they, distant from Jerusalem, far in the north, on the shores and on the hills overlooking the Sea of Galilee, would experience a vindication, a salvation. For along the road to the sea, where they lived, the light of the Lord would shine:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness-on them light has shined.

This is the land where Jesus walked, at the beginning of his ministry. Herod Antipas had arrested John the Baptist, and Jesus left that territory and moved north toward Nazareth, the place where he was raised. He made his home in a larger town, new and busy, down by the lakeshore: Capernaum, where fishing was the industry. It was along that ancient trade route, the road to the sea; Via Maris, it was called now. Traffic passed along, goods were transported, from Damascus to the west, and to Egypt.

And there, after the voice of the 'one crying in the wilderness' had been silenced, Jesus began to spread the good news himself, and to call to the people to turn away from the reign of the rulers of this world, Herod and such, and leave aside their own follies and past sins.

Something new is beginning, a light is dawning, & the reign of God is at hand.

Jesus begins to call his disciples. And his call to them has two parts:

Follow me.


And I will make you fish for people.

There is a call, an initial response of faith, and an action. They do something, right away. Later Jesus will call Matthew from the tax tables, and put him to work, at something much greater: gathering in, no longer, tax monies for the overlords, but gathering in the people of God to bring the kingdom of God.

Now, it is follow me, and.

Later, one of these fishermen, Peter, will answer a question, "What must I do to be saved?" and his answer, again, will begin with an initial response of faith: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved."

But that is, generally speaking, not the end of the answer: beyond this initial act, there is an action. "Believe, and be baptized." Believe, and ---. Believe, and act to make it real. Make the salvation not a thing of head only but of heart, not of words only, but of deeds. Act it out with your body. Go and be baptized. Go and sell all you have, and distribute the proceeds to the poor: then you are really following me.

And Jesus reveals to the fisher folk what it means to follow him. First he said, "Follow me," but he continued, "and I will make you fish for people." I will make you fishers of men. Together.

And they dropped what they were doing, right then and there, said good-bye to their families, and went. That is when they found out what it meant to 'fish for people.'

Jesus led them up into the hill country and throughout the region. He proclaimed the good news. And he enacted the kingdom of heaven, embodied the reign of God - by curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

Here he gives a clear sign, an early warning, quite distinct, that something new is happening. The Messiah, the light of the Lord shining forth from one person, is the dawning of the new day for Israel, the day of the Lord. The Lord's anointed, the Messiah, the Christ, leads the way.

He calls to Simon Peter and Andrew his brother, and to James and John the sons of Zebedee, to follow his way. And -

He calls us.

The apostle Paul, in speaking to those exemplary Christians at Corinth - examples of so much that we recognize as behavior of the church - makes an appeal to them as his own brothers and sisters in the Lord, and he makes it in the name of Jesus: be in agreement, let there be no divisions. Don't fall apart into factions or parties, as if your identity lay in anything less than in the Lord.

He gets a little caustic: "Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" What he is doing is reminding them of their true allegiance, the only one that really matters in the end: they are the people of God, the people redeemed by the Lord and baptized in the name of the Savior.

His primary task is not the initial plunge: it is to proclaim the gospel, to preach the good news, so that the power of the cross of Christ - that paradoxical sign of the power of God - the cross might be revealed as the sign of glory.

And that the people of God - you and I, and they - the Corinthians - might know that in Christ alone is our salvation and our hope and our identity - and our mission.

They are not to divide themselves up into little camps, or tribes.
They are to stay together, focus on mission, and move forward in the name of Christ.

Follow me and.

Believe and.

What is left for us? Two things:

A great commandment.
A great commission.

The first is about staying together. The second is about focusing on mission. And they both are about moving forward in the name of Christ.

We will encounter these again later in Matthew's gospel, as the year goes by.


The Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40)

Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith:
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with
all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great
commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt
love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments
hang all the Law and the Prophets.

And second,

The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20):

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Together, these two directives, great commandment and great commission, form us into the people of God, shape us as a church, and remind us of what we are doing. So we pray,

Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


References (accessed 5:12 AM Sunday, January 27, 2008)

The Third Sunday after Epiphany, January 27, 2008
Year A, Revised Common Lectionary (RCL)
Isaiah 9:1-4
Psalm 27:1, 5-12
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Matthew 4:12-23

Psalm 27:1 (Page 617, BCP)
Dominus illuminatio mea

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom then shall I fear? *
the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

What are you taking on for Lent?

What are you taking on for Lent?

Every year it rolls around – this time of preparation, of self-examination, and of opening our hearts to the presence dawning upon us of the risen Christ.

How will you make the way open for his presence in your life? What will you want to do, to take on, as a personal or spiritual discipline, to get ready for his taking up residence in your soul?

Can you see a way to make ready the way for Christ to enter in to every day, every part of life as you know it? Is there something you can do each day to prepare your heart?

Sometimes we wish it were always Christmas: a season of joy, of fellowship, of fun, of expectation. Yet it is only the beginning of the story. This spring we move through the story of Jesus’ life, and follow him, even from Gethsemane to Golgotha and beyond.

Beyond. What will we find, beyond Good Friday? What will we see, beyond the tomb of Holy Saturday? How will we live, when morning breaks on the first day of the week?

John Pritchard, now bishop of Oxford, encourages us to live Easter all year round.

How will we come to that resurrection faith? How will we find the living presence of Jesus in ourselves? In short, how will we make room for God?

Surely we begin by realizing God has made room for us.

The world is filled with relationships based upon God’s own love, upon the relationships between Father and Son and Holy Spirit, overflowing into creating this world, redeeming its faults and false beginnings, and making holy our whole lives.

How we will take part in this holy process begins with our inviting Jesus in – to dwell within us in each room, each chamber, of our hearts. All Lent is meant to do is to help us to make our hearts Christ’s home.

And then, perhaps, we can see him dwelling in each other.


For the February 2008 Grapevine

Living Easter Through the Year: Making the Most of the Resurrection by John Pritchard (Liturgical Press, 2006)

unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity... and Why It Matters by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons (Baker Books, 2007)

Holiness by Donald Nicholl (Pauline Books & Media, 2005)

The Testing of Hearts by Donald Nicholl (Second edition: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1998)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Mercy, Compassion, and Wisdom

In the name of God, merciful Father, compassionate Son, Spirit of wisdom.

Jesus calls us into new relationships: new relationships with God, with self, with each other. He calls us out of the old painful relationships of pain, punishment and retribution.

This might seem odd: in today’s gospel, isn’t God calling Jesus the sacrificial goat? No. God offers to humankind his only Son, as Savior and as Lord. Jesus breaks the cycle of violence – he does not complete it.

Here he is walking by the river Jordan. He is not even calling his disciples: they are coming to him. And they come to him because John, the prophet, the one who baptizes for turning away from sin, points him out to them. “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

The Passover Lamb is a sign; the people of Israel are remembering that the Lord set them free from bondage. (Exodus 12)

The Lord offers his Son as a gift: as a liberator from bondage, from slavery, from sin. This is the ‘epiphany’, the revelation of God’s Son, which we share in today.

“Great things are they that you have done, O Lord my God!” (Psalm 40:5a)

You take no pleasure in sacrifice and offering – you have not required burnt offering or offering for sin, and so I say,

Behold, I come. I love to do your will, O my God; your law is deep in my heart. I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly. I have spoken of your faithfulness and your deliverance; let your love and your fidelity keep me safe forever.

Jesus frees us from sin. He liberates us from our old oppressions, personal and moral, social and political – yes, even political. He calls us out into a larger world, away from the structures of the demonic obsession with guilt and death, into the realm of eternal Life.

And he calls us into service beside him. As he is the light of the world and we are the light of the world, he is the Lamb of God and we too are the Lamb of God. What are we called to do?

“It is too light a thing,” says the Lord to his Servant, “that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob.” There is more for you to do.

Isaiah goes on to say: “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Of course he was not speaking to you and me – not at first. But we are not getting off the hook. First of all, these prophetic words came to the people Israel while they themselves were in bondage – in exile in the land between the waters, then Babylon: now Iraq.

Of all the people in all the places of the world, he had to walk into their lives – and tell them, not only that they themselves were to be set free, but that they were to be signs to the world.

And Jesus takes on this challenge: he embodies to the world the liberation of God, just as the Passover Lamb represented to the people of Israel their freedom from the land of Pharaoh: “Remember that your ancestors were slaves in Egypt.” They were slaves, strangers, sojourners – traveling through on their way, however windy and long, to the Holy Land.

Jesus is walking by the riverside; John points him out to his own disciples, and points out who he is: The Lamb of God. The two disciples hear this, and off they go: they go to meet Jesus, to see where he is living, and to – as it turns out – to follow him.

“Come and see,” Jesus invites them, innocently enough. As it is four o’clock in the afternoon, perhaps on the eve of the Sabbath, and the daylight is fading, they “remain with him that day.”

Oh, dear. That was a mistake. It was a mistake if they wanted to stay the way they were. For by morning, someone at least has heard the dime drop.

Andrew, the first disciple to be mentioned by name, goes to his brother Simon, and tells him: “We have found the Messiah, the anointed one: the one who is come to set his people free.”

Nothing could be clearer than that. And Simon trusts his brother – and he comes to Jesus, and lays – as it turns out – his life at Jesus’ feet.

“You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (Aramaic, for rock), that is, you are a rock. And on this rock – this embodiment of faithfulness, this human trust – Jesus builds his church.

But we still are not off the hook. From Isaiah’s Servant, perhaps one man, the prophet, perhaps the people of Israel, we have moved to Jesus – and to Peter.

In Greek, the naming of Peter is a play on words: petros, a rock; petra, rock en masse; bedrock.

We are the second: the people of God, the body of faithful people, the ones called to be the foundation stones of God’s Temple. A temple not built by hands: but made of them, and of feet, and eyes, and ears, and all the parts of the body, glorified and inglorious together.

We are the body of Christ, the people of God, and on this foundation God builds the new world. What is he looking for? What does God want from us?

Does he want sacrifice? Some ritual atonement, to make us even, to square us in his books for some past oversight? No, he wants to free us from that: and the Lamb of God is his sign to us that he is accomplishing that – in Jesus.

And he is accomplishing that in us, if we dwell with Christ; if we, like Andrew and the other disciple, go and see – go and see – where he is living, and abiding still, then we too will take part in the new work of God, the building of the temple.

The purpose of this temple is not to look beautiful, it is not to win a reward; it is to be a light to the nations, the peoples of the world, so that God’s salvation, his healing, his atonement, may make at one with God all the peoples of the world.

“Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers – that is, like Israel was at the time of the Babylonian Captivity, like Jesus was as a captive before Pilate, like we are if left to ourselves in the mire of sin and falsehood – thus says the Lord to them, to him, to us:

“’Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves,’” because of – not because of us – “’because of the Lord, who is faithful,’” - who keeps faith and keeps his promise – “’the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you….’”:

Indeed he has chosen us. He walks by the lakeshore as of old, and he – the Messiah, the holy one of Israel – calls to us, by his very being. And we want to investigate, we want to go find out: who is he? Where is he living? Where can we abide with him?

God is faithful. He calls you into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. You are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place – and generation – call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours. The grace of God has been given to us in Christ Jesus.

In every way we have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind – just as the witness of Christ has been made stronger among us – so that we lack no gift of the spirit as we wait for his coming.

He is coming; he is here now, and he has been here with us from the beginning. His new kingdom is being heralded, as he was heralded by John: the old dominion of sin and slavery and death and bondage is gone; new life and new hope is found in Jesus Christ.

We are called to share in Christ’s work of building the kingdom, of being the light of the world, the lamb of God.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Amen/let’s get started.


Epiphany2a, Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 40:1-12, 1 Corinthians 1:1-9, John 1:29-42.

Thanks to Tom Sine of Mustard Seed Associates for helpful insights and general encouragement.

Sources & Resources for Study and Preaching


Abingdon Bible Commentary (1929)

David Adam,
Clouds and Glory: Prayers for the Church Year: Year A (London: SPCK, 1998)
Traces of Glory: Prayers for the Church Year: Year B (London: SPCK, 1999)
Glimpses of Glory: Prayers for the Church Year: Year C (SPCK, 2000)

Christopher Irvine,
The Pilgrims' Manual (Glasgow: Wild Goose, 1997)

Herbert O'Driscoll, The Word Today: Reflections on the Readings of the Revised Common Lectionary: Year A, Volume 1 (Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 1998)

Nicholas Thomas (Tom) Wright,
Matthew for Everyone, ed. 2 (London: SPCK, 2004)

Barbara E. Reid,
New Collegeville Bible Commentary: The Gospel According to Matthew (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 2005)

Fred B. Craddock, John H. Hayes, Carl R. Holladay, Gene M. Tucker,
Preaching Through the Christian Year: Year A (Harrisburg, Pa.: Trinity Press International, 1992)

Mary Hinkle Shore, Herman C. Waetjen, Richard Eslinger, Melinda A. Quivik,
New Proclamation: Year A, 2007-2008: Advent through Holy Week (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007)

The Lectionary Page

The (Online) Book of Common Prayer

Oremus Bible Browser

Michael Hardin, Jeff Krantz & Anthony Bartlett,
Preaching Peace

Anthony Bartlett,
Bible Studies at Preaching Peace

Paul Nuechterlein,
Girardian Reflections on the Lectionary

Jenee Woodard, ed.,
The Text this Week

Mark I. Wallace and Theophus H. Smith, editors,
Curing Violence: Essays on René Girard (Polebridge Press, 1994)

Gil Bailie,
The Cornerstone Forum

René Girard,
"Violence and the Cross", CTNS Forum, The Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, February 11, 2003.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

the first servant song - and the son of man

January 13, 2008
The Servant Song and the Son of Man

Isaiah 42:1-9 Acts 10:34-43 Matthew 3:13-17 Psalm 29

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us – that we might share your gospel, and do your work. Amen.

In the Psalm we have recited together this morning, the voice of the Lord is heard as thunder. Over and over again the gigantic voice booms out: trees split, mountains tremble, the wilderness echoes with the great sound. And among the people of God assembled in the Temple, the response is to reply likewise with one great voice, “Glory!”

The Lord is the Thunderer, the Lightning-bringer: the triumphant and majestic one. And it is he, this very one greater than all the earth, who is Israel’s friend. It is he sustains the people of God in the wilderness and brings them in safety into a new home. It is he who gives peace.

It is the one who gives peace, the one who guides his people safely, who appears, also, in the prophet Isaiah. And yet here he is gentle, calm, small. A reed he will not bend. No longer the voice of thunder, or earthquake, or flood, or wind, or fire: God is heard in a still, small voice, a gentle, quiet voice.

A few days before Christmas, in Seattle’s Town Hall, I listened to a performance of Handel’s Messiah. There was a quiet soprano voice, not too loud, but clear: and it sang, “Unto you is born a Savior." Unto you!

The love of the Lord comes quietly to us, personally to us, bringing us the peace and reassurance of a loving Savior traveling by our side. This is the same Lord whose majesty is over all creation. The One who creates heaven and earth is great, beyond all measure or boundary, and yet the smallest creature is his special delight, his particular care.

Peter, in the story from Acts that we have heard today, is in the house of Cornelius, a centurion, a Roman military commander, a Pagan – not a Jew. He has been astonished to find that, yes, God’s hand extends even this far: beyond the national boundaries of Israel, beyond nationality, even into the homes of the people he may have felt most distant from, the occupiers of his land. God’s hand reaches out and reconciles the most polarized of opponents. He is that mighty. He can bring peace.

And, in the story of the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John, he not only brings peace: he embodies peace. He comes himself to establish the reign of peace.

At the river the Servant appears. The one in whom the Lord delights, the chosen, the Savior, here he is: fulfilling all righteousness, doing what is fitting for any human being, taking on the sign of baptism, of repentance, of turning again to the Lord and thereby finding new life, this very one who embodies salvation in his person, is here now with us.

John steps back: what are you doing, coming to me? I should be coming to you! No. He is here already. God has sent him and he is doing more than we could ask for: he is taking on our humanity, not saving us by remote control, but by his very being with us, risking alongside us, living alongside us.

Good news: The Servant that Isaiah sung about, the one we have been waiting for, the one that all creation and all nations are waiting for, is Jesus. He is here, in the river, immersed in the water of life.

Great news: The Servant that Isaiah sung about, the light to the nations, called by God in righteousness, is more than just one man. And more than Jesus, standing by himself, wet to the skin, newly emerging from the river water. The people plunge in. They are baptized, too, and they too rise to new Life.

They are the people of God, the people who turn to new life, the people who offer the salvation of God to the whole world. The Servant that Isaiah sung about: is us… We are the people of God, endowed with God’s spirit, sent by Christ into his world to make disciples of all nations, and to embody the love of God.

Jesus is the Servant, yes. He is the one who shows us the way, who is the way. But he is not alone. The whole people of God are the Servant that Isaiah sung about. The people of God are called to follow Jesus into this new world, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon into light.

Peter sees it all at once and just as a beginning: through Cornelius of all people, a Roman centurion, he sees that God shows no partiality but that anyone of any nation who truly worships God and follows righteousness, that is, who does justice, loves mercy, and walks humbly with God, is accepted by God.

Jesus Christ – he is Lord of all. The whole world trembles, and rejoices. The clouds split, the oceans roar, and the people sing in the temple, Amen. “Glory!” they shout.

As Peter said: We are witnesses to all that he did. He was crucified under Pontius Pilate – they hung him from a tree; on the third day he rose again from the dead – God raising him; and he appeared to the witnesses chosen by God, those who eat and drink with him after his resurrection.

Oh, wait a minute: that’s us. We are going to eat and drink with him, this morning, at his table. And we are all welcome. Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins. All are welcome at the Lord’s table.

And when we take in that good news of salvation, and spread it and act on it and live it, we become the Servant, the people of God, along with Jesus. When the voice from heaven, loud and thundering – or quiet and gentle, comes ringing in our ears, what we can hear is God’s pleasure.

This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.

Jesus comes quietly, at first.

The message he brings is simple, and new, and profound. God is doing a new thing, with us. God is not apart from us, triumphant and distant and untouched. He is with us, in our pain and sorrow and grief and joy and laughter and in every new birth, every new beginning. He blesses us.

This day, the feast of the baptism of Jesus himself, we remember our own baptisms as well. As we renew our baptismal vows today, on this feast day of the baptism of our Lord and Savior, we are blessed.

We are blessed by God with abundance of grace: we are fully alive, members of the new creation, the new thing God is doing in our midst, individually, corporately, socially.

Jesus leads the way, through the river – the water of baptism, repentance and newness of life. He leads the way across, into the challenge and promise of a new way of living, a new ordering of life. Jesus the new human being, the son of Man, is the first-born from the dead, who leads us forth from our tomb-like sins and sorrows into a new day, the day of the Lord, when he will refresh us and bring us this day into Paradise, the new world of God’s promise, the place of peace.

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.

This is the promise of God: enacted at the Jordan river, embodied in Jesus; it is the voice of God, “new things I now declare” – calling to us – to follow Jesus, to become part of the new life, and to bear this forth into the world, to the peoples of the earth, becoming a light to all the nations, bringing the good news of freedom and new life.

Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine: Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 (BCP)

Sunday, January 6, 2008

still they seek him

The wise still seek him – and they still come bearing gifts. They bring to the Christ Child the symbols of his transcendence: gifts for royalty, for priesthood, for martyrdom. And what they bring is still less than what they receive, and being wise, they know it. That is why they come: because here at the feet of the Christ Child they are in the presence of a mystery greater than any king, any priest, any martyr, any prophet. They are in the presence of the living God.

In Jesus the fullness of God is pleased to dwell.

In Jesus we are ourselves invited to dwell: to live in his tent as he has come to live among us, as one of us.

Gifts, presence, manifestation and invitation: today we are invited to kneel with the wise at the feet of the Christ. We bear our gifts: our selves. We stand like them in the presence of the living One.

Shown to us by the leading of a star, or some less likely light, we too travel from afar to be at this manger side. We too have been chosen to receive the gift of his Light, and to reveal to the World his Word.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 18-20)

Each of us is called to service, each of us is called to witness; but first, each of us is called to worship: to adore, at the side of his little bed, in the smallest of miracles, the quietest of triumphs, the living God, present among us in the form of a human being like ourselves.

With no trappings of glory other than those he receives from us – and from us he is more likely to receive, inevitably, a crown of thorns – he yet comes to us, bringing to us Light and Life and Hope.

The star in the east, the wise ones sought: and they followed. And they found him. We can do no less. And no less will we receive, in the cover of word and sacrament and Spirit, him whom they sought.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

by the leading of a star

The season of Epiphany lasts from the Twelfth Day of Christmas until just before Lent. At the beginning of the season is the feast of Epiphany, or Little Christmas, also known as Three Kings Day; the feast of the Presentation, or Candlemas (Candelaria), February 2nd, marks its end.

On the feast of Epiphany, in some places, a lucky person will find a little clay (or plastic) baby Jesus – or a bean or a coin – in their piece of festival cake; that means they’re king or queen for the day, and it’s their turn to provide the refreshments at the next feast, on Candelaria DayCandlemas.

In between is the season of Epiphany, of ‘appearance’ or ‘manifestation’, celebrating the ‘shining forth’—or revelation—of God becoming present to humankind in the person of Jesus.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

The whole event of the Incarnation, including the Birth of the Messiah, the visit of the ‘Magi’ – the Wise Men or ‘astrologers’ – to the Holy Family at Bethlehem, all of Jesus’ growing up, his Baptism in the Jordan River, the Presentation in the Temple, the Wedding-feast at Cana, can becelebrated illuminates at this season; we pay particular attention to his Baptism on January 13th.

This continuing celebration of the mystery of the Incarnation, of ‘God in Man made manifest’,—in Christ— shows forth to the whole of creation the love of God.

The star in the east, the pilgrim kings bearing royal and mysterious gifts, the night flight of the holy family, the descent of the dove as Jesus emerges from the river water, Cana — all these portents point to the question, “Who is Jesus?” Who is he now, here, in our lives and our world? Who will he be for us? How will God be present to us in our lives?

And how will we make God present to others? Epiphany is the season to explore that…