To my mind, there are two key takeaways for us this week. We who are Christians stand in the crowd of witnesses that began with the first stories, with Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, with the family of Abraham, with Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Deborah, Ruth, Samuel, Saul and David, and all the prophets.
We remember what they longed to see. We are gathered and transformed by what happened just as they were created and transformed by what they were promised.
And standing in that crowd, being given the story that unlocks the deepest meaning of all the stories, it is our turn to share them with our children and our neighbors. They too, whether they know it or not, are being remade by the working of the same Spirit.
To us has been given the Word of truth, the Word of faith and of hope. So that even in this moment, as the nations roar and creation groans, we see the working of the Spirit to bring all to perfection.
Do not wonder then but behold the working out of Salvation in our midst. It is being made manifest to us. And how appropriate today that the name of this liturgical season, Epiphany literally means manifestation.
So what should we do in day like this? Care for one another. Care for the people in our lives. Care for the world as best we can. But also know that God is working in us as individuals and in all us as part of God’s created order.
The winnowing fork and the wind are separating the good parts from the bad. Thanks be to God.
One of the optional readings for this second Sunday in Christmastide is the story of the Magi and their visit to the Christ Child in Bethlehem. In this Gospel, the Magi study nature, act on what they learn, and arrive at the foot of the Christ Child, the Lord, and author of Creation.
To me, this lesson has been a reminder that the present apparent conflict between Science and Religion in this moment of history isn’t helpful or even necessary. In this sermon, I talk about one of the roots of the conflict, and more importantly, how this conflict is being used today to divide us into warring tribes in society.
This year is not what we had hoped. The fourth wave of the pandemic is sweeping across the world. We thought this summer we were through the worst of it and that all things would be being made well by now. But it hasn’t turned out that way.
But don’t lose heart. For those with eyes to see, the light of God is still in this world and waxes strong. Christmas is the celebration of God’s entrance uniquely into our story, and that moment transforms our perception of everything.
This video is longer than usual. My wife and daughter join me as we use a liturgy adapted from the Church of England meant for family home celebrations of Christmas. This video is for you to use if you must stay home this year but want to keep Christmas somehow.
When I was a boy, one of my favorite family traditions was gathering around the piano on Christmas Day with my mother playing carols and all of us singing together. There’s an echo of that in this video, and though the production values are not terribly fancy, I hope it brings you a bit of light or a smile.
You can find the liturgy we’re using posted here.
The past few years have felt like a movie plot that keeps tossing up complications just as you think the journey home is ending. We believe we are getting back to normal, and another variant appears; first delta and then omicron. We think one round of vaccination will end the pandemic, and now we need additional shots. It’s exhausting and, on some days, even disheartening.
But as public health officials keep saying, there are many reasons to be optimistic. We are in much better shape to manage a viral variant now than we were two years ago. We know much more about COVID, how to mitigate its spread, and how to treat it when people develop symptoms. In big ways and lots of small ways, we’ve made progress. It’s frustrating that it’s not over yet, but frustration is a much better place to be than to be helpless and without options.
History is that way too. Bp. N.T. Wright in his book “Surprised by Hope,” offhandedly remarks that because of Our Lord’s Passion and the working of the Holy Spirit in the world, history has a direction and a purpose to it. Things are happening in the world, and while moral progress and transformation can be frustratingly slow, when you step back, it is breathtaking to see how far we have come. History is moving us to a moment when heaven and earth will be joined together, and all the pain in this world will finally end.
Advent is the time of year when that hope is foremost in our prayers and our hearts. This quiet, dark time at the end of the year is a season for us to look for the quiet, constant work of the Spirit in history. We remember that Heaven surrounds us and that Jesus is at work, binding up the wounds of Creation and releasing us into a new life we cannot yet see but to which time will soon deliver us.
Be the light our neighbors need this year: