Through the year God has cared for us, His people.
God’s Love is guaranteed.
His Promise and Salvation remain forever.
We are assured that the passing of time, even the very end of time, cannot separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus.
The Church’s year started with the beginning of Advent about a month ago.
Instead of viewing the Church year as a linear time-line, think of the Church Year as cyclical.
Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning coming.
Adventus was used to signify the approach of someone of dignity, power, and glory with the power to bestow favor; or exact penalty. The coming of God’s Son is the adventus par excellence.
In Advent we focused on three comings: the coming of the Messiah at Christmas, prophesied throughout the history and Scriptures of Old Testament Israel; the coming again, in glory, of the Messiah Who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords; and the coming of this Christ into each of our lives through the Holy Spirit – personally received by faith through the Word and Sacraments.
RESURRECTION AT CHRISTMAS
As I write this, we are in the midst of celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas.
The name Christmas comes from “Christ Mass”; and refers to the liturgy celebrated on the day when Christ came among us, as one of us. We celebrate the mystery of salvation revealed in the birth of Christ, Who is both our King and our Servant; the lowly Son of David, Who is also the glorious Son of God and holds the cosmos in His Hands.
The celebration of Christmas in Jerusalem includes Christians assembling at night in the Grotto of the Nativity, in Bethlehem – the traditional location of Christ’s birth. They return to Jerusalem, arriving there in time for a Christmas Day celebration at dawn in the Church of the Resurrection.
At this church in Cary, NC, also named Resurrection, we celebrated the mystery of the Incarnation – all of God wrapped up in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, announced by the whole Angelic Choir of Heaven, worshipped by lowly shepherds and majestic Wise Men – in variety of worship forms.
In the historical, liturgical Christian Church, January and February are months in which we celebrate the revealing of the Greatest Gift ever given.
What, or better, Who is it? What is He like? What does He do?
The word Epiphany means manifestation and refers to the appearance of God among mortals.
The same word was used to describe the visit of a king to a favored city. The king would be greeted with all pomp and circumstance. There would be feasting and revelry – all at the expense of the king. He would grant generous gifts and give tokens of his favor to the people.
The season of Epiphany opens with the splendor of the Festival of Epiphany on January 6.
It is the Nativity Celebration of the Eastern Christian Church. It is about the Magi, the coming of the Gentiles, as the prophets had proclaimed, to offer their gifts as one of the signs demonstrating that there are no divisions in God’s Kingdom, all are included and welcome.
To manifest something, or someone – a deity, for example, is to make it become visible, even obvious. During the season of Epiphany, through teaching and miracles, God in Christ reveals Who He Is and Why He came among us.
The First Sunday after the Epiphany is the Baptism of Our Lord. Jesus Christ rises out of the waters of the Jordan and the Holy Spirit anoints Him, and we hear the Voice of God from Heaven declare Jesus to be the Beloved Son. Jesus was designated at the Lamb of God; the Servant-Son Who would righteousness to all the nations.
Prior to the last Sunday after Epiphany, the other Sundays celebrate the ministry of Jesus the Christ Who would deliver people from blindness, physical and spiritual, and release them from the captivity of sin, death and the devil.
The Second and Fifth Sundays after Epiphany use miracles of Jesus to reveal His Glory to us.
At the Wedding Feast in Cana, Jesus Christ shows that God’s Love for His people moves Him to shower them with gifts, and gives a glimpse of the Glory of God and the Everlasting Feast waiting for us all in Heaven. The miraculous catch of fish shows God’s Gracious Power is wide; and He performs wonders of mercy and grace in our daily lives.
The Third and Fourth Sundays after Epiphany call to mind Jesus launching His Public Ministry of preaching, teaching and healing. He claims that He was anointed to preach good news, proclaim freedom and the coming of God’s Salvation. He is revealed as the Light given to bring light to the nations – even to those who oppose His Gospel and may reject Him through unbelief.
The Sixth and Seventh Sundays after Epiphany recall Jesus’ teachings. In the Beatitudes, Jesus reminds us that eternal blessings are the gift of our Gracious God to those who put their trust in God and remain faithful through the trials in life. Jesus also teaches and shows us that we cannot limit our compassion to those whom we are inclined. True love leads us to have compassion and mercy towards all people causing the Light of Christ to shine even in the dark corners of the world.
May our prayer for this New Year echo that of the hymn-writers:
Our God, Our Help in ages past,
Our Hope for years to come,
Be Thou our Guard while troubles last
And our Eternal Home!
(TLH 123 v.8)
O Lord Christ, our Savior dear,
Be Thou ever near us.
Grant us now a glad new year.
Amen, Jesus, hear us!
(TLH 97 v.4)