Monthly Archives: January 2013

In Season and Out

epiphany

By the time you read this, Advent will be a memory—although we never really leave Advent, do we? We are always longing for love to materialize, always waiting for promises to come true, always scanning the signs of the times, always living under the judgment of a God who prefers mercy to sacrifice, always creating highways in the human wilderness to announce the good news about God’s unshakeable commitment to the earth and all who dwell upon it. Advent may be over, but Advent never leaves us. Desire for joy and justice is the permanent subtext of our lives.

Christmas will have come and gone too—although we never really leave Christmas, do we? We are always adoring on bended knee at cradles occupied by unfathomable babies, always surrounded by glory-singing angels, always offering ourselves and all we have in praise, always finding God most tenacious and tender among the suffering, the homeless and the poor, always subverting the violent power of kings with humility, with the insistence of stars, with the simple truth. Christmas may be over, but Christmas never leaves us. Human life is forever divinized. God forever wears a human face.

By the time you read this, it will be (almost) Epiphany—the season when eyes of faith flood with the most wonderful light, and the beauty of the One who lives and breathes in Jesus’ ministry is irresistible. All season long, the veil lifts and God is known in the wonders Jesus does, the words he speaks, and the kinds of people he calls to his side to share his company and his daily work.

You too, come and see, Jesus says. Come, see for yourselves. And if we go, and if we see, and if by his grace we stay, we will never leave Epiphany, nor Epiphany us.

Come and see, he says. And if we do, we will become like him, all light from light.

According to Matthew

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–Joseph Sleeping, Gentile da Fabriano

According to Matthew, angels do not sleep: in the small hours they intervene, scattering the sleep of others.

They harry exhausted fathers and tip off shrewd men who hail from far away.

According to Matthew, the world is a place where good people’s dreams bulge with warnings, and hope is barely one hard breathing step ahead of tyrants bent on harm.

According to Matthew, there is an inexhaustible supply  of tyrants.

Angels have to work overtime; even then children die.

Only one escapes this time.

He will grow to be the sort of man who accepts angelic ministrations in wilderness and garden, but no more intervention.

Even forewarned, he will not flee; not even put up a fight.

“Leaking Light” — Epiphany

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–Adoration of the Magi, Gentile da Fabriano, 1423

Our planet has come full circle, and things should feel new; yet for many people, the calendar is cleared only for business as usual, and the soul’s season, like the weather outside here in the northern hemisphere, is winter. But the church has entered a different season. We call it Epiphany, from a Greek word meaning to point out in a striking way, to reveal.

Epiphany is a season of signs. It starts with a Star in the East and ends with fire on a mountain. A season of voices, it starts with directions in a dream and ends with acknowledgment from a cloud. A season of unveiling, it starts with a glimpse of a baby’s skin and ends with a display of gleaming garments. A season of worship, it starts with the homage of kings and ends with the prostration of disciples.

How generous and wise the liturgy is to gives us this string of bright, hot God-sightings in a cold, dark time. It is the church’s way of showing us that our world only appears solid, still, dark, and cold, but is in fact ardent, vivid, and porous. As Barbara Brown Taylor says so eloquently, Epiphany reminds us that we live in a world that is leaking light, and that this long stretch of predictability we call our daily life is really a wondrous game of hide-and-seek with the divine.

Starfire, dream-clouds, baby’s flesh, garments of light, kings on their knees and disciples on their faces—in Epiphany we learn, again, to see, to listen, to worship, and to be called; for discipleship (we know, but too soon forget in our drive to be useful and productive) is as much about being spoken to as it is about speaking, as much about adoring as serving, as much about perceiving as doing, as much about being found as searching. Discipleship is born in awe, it arises from encounter, it is a consequence of worship.

Our planet has come full circle; but for us this does not mean just another round in an endless, futile turning of things. In this new year, we are not so much going around again as we are spiraling down and in, deeper and deeper. Spiraling down and in on a mystery. A mystery that calls to us to duck under the surface, to come and see, to taste and hear, to feel and know, to adore, and thus to follow.