Notes from Joe

Epiphany (January 6) is the day where church tradition tells us the wise men (magi) arrived bearing gifts to present to the Christ child.  Epiphany is the beginning of a season where we celebrate God being revealed in the world.  This church season can allow each of us to ask, like the magi: how will God be revealed to me, and what gifts do I have to offer God?

Martin Luther, the famous German monk who lived in the 1500’s, had a wonderful way of making scripture come alive.  In his writings he wonders what the wise men were thinking as they approached Bethlehem: “What king can have been born here where everything is so quiet and dull?  Why, there is more noise and shouting when a child is born among shepherds.  A cow that [is born] would be better known than this king.”  He’s saying that what the magi encountered did not make any sense to them.  It was not rational to expect to find a king there in that forgotten place.  And then Luther makes this statement which cuts to the heart of the matter: “Human nature wants perception and certitude as a condition for faith.”  He’s saying that we want to experience something with our own senses, and we want to be absolutely certain of something, before we will put our trust in it.  That was true in the time of the magi, and it was true in Luther’s time, and it remains true today.

But no such outward certainty is given!  Not to the magi, and not to us.  Our certainty comes only when we take the risk, and when (like the magi) we make the journey – when we step out in faith.  It seems to me that in today’s world, we travel toward God in much the same way as those magi – sometimes questioning, sometimes doubtful, perhaps not certain at all, but always carrying with us (and within us) our own unique gifts which are ready to be given.

Eli Wiesel, the famous author and survivor of the concentration camps once wrote: “When we die and go to heaven, and we meet our Maker, our Maker is not going to say to us, why didn’t you become the messiah?  Why didn’t you discover the cure for such and such?  The only thing we’re going to be asked at that precious moment is: why didn’t you become you?”

As part of a Christian community, each of us is able, like the magi, to make a journey of faith.  And each of us in varying degrees is able to offer Him gifts.  Each of us is able to take whatever we have that is most valuable and bring it before God.

As we begin this new year, and as we look with anticipation toward the possibilities for love and service that present themselves in 2019, let’s be prepared to risk, to stretch, and to trust in Christ that the gifts which have been given to us will grow and flourish, that they in turn can be used to honor God.  In Christ,