January 6th, the traditional date for celebrating Epiphany, falls on the first Sunday in January this year, a date that many Christians have been observing more recently.
The Christian celebration of Epiphany marks the wise men (Magi) finding Jesus and bowing down to worship. Many of the claims made of the wise men are from church tradition; what little we know of the them from scripture is found in a few verses of Matthew 2. Perhaps we can learn a lesson or two from their ancient wisdom.
Luke 1 offers some prophetic words from Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Zacharias, father of John the Baptist. Both spoke great truths being filled with the Holy Spirit. In Luke 2 we meet two individuals at the Jerusalem temple who again have prophetic words about the baby Jesus.
The angels declared “Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men.” Is the world at peace? Of course not, but don’t let that stop you from finding peace. We have peace with God and can be at peace in the world that is not.
December 2nd will be the first Sunday of this year’s season of Advent. To read more about what that means and how we celebrate, try this article I wrote a few years ago for the local paper. It’s a good introduction to anyone new to Advent.
Our Sunday School literature this year is doing a series of lessons very similar to our annual Advent services. Each week in Sunday School we will follow a person or group of people as they encounter God and respond to the birth of Jesus. There will be one lesson Joseph and another on Mary while in our Sunday morning worship we will consider the faith of Joseph and Mary together; there is a lesson on angels but not one for shepherds. Again, the Sunday School lessons are similar but not exactly the same. We will certainly spend more time exploring the scriptures learning about all those surrounding the birth of Jesus than we have in years past.
We’re about to wind down our year long series on the theme “God is Near” but I would like to do one more sermon, possibly in January, on the apocalyptic passages of Daniel. This sermon is about Israel in exile, particularly Daniel and his friends, and reminds us that no matter where we go God is near. There are many parallels between Joseph going down to Egypt and Daniel being taken into Babylonian captivity as well as Israel going into both empires. In both cases God could see and hear and they could hear from God. Something for us to think about no matter where we go.
It’s a shame we only think of Jeremiah as “the weeping prophet.” While he did bring a message warning Israel of God’s judgement there was a constant plea to repent and turn back to God. There is hope and encouragement in the book of Jeremiah as well as words of warning for those who continue to reject and refuse.