Epiphany

I wrote this to share at Coffeehouse Carols Sunday a week ago–these thoughts that stayed close to my heart after a phone conversation with a dear friend.  May this day of Light and Love give you hope during this darkest season.  

The_visit_of_the_wise-men

“The visit of the wise-men” by Heinrich Hofmann – Postcards thebiblerevival.com. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_visit_of_the_wise-men.jpg#/media

 

“We ask for the light.  But then we can’t handle what it shows us.”

When I heard the words of my friend echoing across the phone line, my breath caught and I was silent.

“I’m going to have to sit with this for a moment,” I told her when I found my voice.

And then I sat with it for many days, for the whole ten days before Christmas.

During this time of Light and Love and candles and twinkle lights on the trees and houses and storefronts and all the lights in all the places, during this time of celebrating the Light that broke through the darkness—how could I begin to contemplate the hard things that the Light brings?

We all seek the Light.  Like the shepherds and Magi and all who followed the shining light to find the Messiah, we look for it; our souls crave the Light in the darkness.  Hope in the brokenness. We see it as Good and Holy and Perfect and Emmanuel.  God With Us.

And yet, we’ve all had those moments, haven’t we?  The pain of the light piercing the darkness?  Sleeping in a dark room and the curtains are open to the full sunlight of the day?  We’re outside or riding in the car and the sun comes out from behind the clouds and our sunglasses are nowhere to be found?  Sitting in a dark theater and the lights come up at the end of the show?

It can be abrupt.  Jarring.  Startling.

When the light shines suddenly in a place of darkness, in those first moments we can see things that are quite unpleasant.  Things scurry and run quicker than our eyes can discern, seeking the cover of darkness once again.  When the Light first came into the world as one of us over 2000 years ago, then too, the Light shone brightly and showed us things that were not okay.  Things that had been under the cover of darkness for so long—injustice, poverty, condemnation, evil thoughts and deeds, wickedness, deceit.

The Light did not bring beauty to the world in the most conventional of ways.  The One Who Came brought beauty by shining a spotlight on all of the things hiding in the dark and showing us how to live in such a way as to end those things that were scurrying for cover.  To follow in the dust of the rabbi and do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.  To LOVE and never let the darkness cover up all that is hurting our world ever again.

It’s not easy.  In fact, it’s exhausting.  As exhausting as trying to pick out the perfect gift on Christmas Eve or as frustrating as trying to return the shirt that didn’t fit on the day after Christmas.  Even more so.  To carry all of the things that are hurting and painful and broken in one’s heart and mind, and to seek to find ways to end them, to heal them, to relieve them—it’s just hard.

So Christmas.

The Coming of the Light.  Hope in New Life.  Joy in the sound of a cry joining the soft lowing and stirring of the animals surrounding the newborn child.

The dawn will come and the days will pass, and it will become apparent that the coming of the Light did not suddenly change the way things are done.  In fact, His coming only emphasized just how wrong things had been for far too long.

And yet—imagine being in the darkest place imaginable.  Maybe this doesn’t take much thought for some of us—for those for whom this is a very real reality.  So the darkness is so dark and thick and heavy, not only can you not see but you can feel the darkness in every fiber of your being.  It is oppressive.  You feel alone, disoriented, lost.  And hope is fading fast.  The silence is deafening.  Or the worries in your heart and mind clamor for attention, and it is dizzying.

And then one night, in one moment, the Light shines through.  And while that can be quite disorienting and scary at first, once you get your bearings, you look around.  And what the Light shows us, blesses us with, is that there are OTHERS.  We are not alone.  He gives us the gift of drawing others close to His grace, and we gather together and share the journey, all of the journey.

My Mama used to say, “Joys multiplied, sorrows divided.”

For me that is the beauty of the Light. Of the gift we are given at Christmas.

We gather together around the baby each and every year and we sing our praises and we look for some sign that our Hope is not in vain. If we take a moment and look around at all who are in the glow of the Light, we can see that we are not alone.

There are others there to help us up when we fall, to help us find hope in the situations that break our hearts.  There are those who will point out the good in the midst of even the hardest of things, and those will carry on when we just can’t.  They show up with casseroles and love letters and kind words and hand-drawn pictures and cups of hot chocolate with candy canes for stirring.  And they show up, again and again, because, for all of the hard things the Light shows us, the most important things that He shows us is that we are a part of something really, really good.  We are a part of a community.  A group of folks who choose love.  Who care.  Who seek to find the things that scurry for cover and bring them out into the open so Love and Light can bring the beautiful and powerful transformation, through our passion and love and efforts to follow in the dust of the child who was born so long ago and stays at our sides still today.  Our steps might be clumsy at times, but we are on the right path and we are together.

My folks used to remind my siblings and me, whenever we would go anywhere, to stick together.

I think that’s the most beautiful part of the Christmas message.

Stick together.

Look out for each other.

Hold hands when crossing the street or walking through the hard things.

And no matter our differences in any given moment, love each other.

God With Us, and we are With each other.  Standing in the Light.

Merry Christmas!  And may Epiphany and Light be ours today and everyday.

Love to all.

epiphany

light

light bulb

realization

a new knowing

stars

Star

traveling

seeking

wondering

finding

treasure

knowledge

Love

Light

 

over the years so much written about light

“But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?”*

“blinded by the light”

“you light up my life”

“this little light of mine”

“Light of the world”

 

but in the dark of night

so long ago

it took no words,

only one star, one Light

to lead the way and give the journey purpose

not just for the three

but for all

 

so on the Twelfth day we gather

and celebrate

and look for the light in our own lives

and tarry not for long as we move

towards it

with an Epiphany

that the Light is always there, waiting,

guiding,

a beacon of love for all

 

 


+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

*Shakespeare’s words from “Romeo and Juliet”

 

Love and Merry Twelfth Day of Christmas to all!

 

 

 

Dream a Little Dream With Me

Today is Epiphany.

Yes, the twelve days of Christmas are over.  We spent much of the afternoon putting away our Christmas and tidying up.  And I made it through it.  Only this year, I made no promises to myself about where we would be when the boxes were opened again.

So on with Epiphany, the day marked to honor the theophany of the infant Jesus to the Magi, the Wise Men.  (theophany–my new word for today–it means “the appearance of a deity to a human”)

I love the story.  The Magi set out looking for the one born to be King of the Jews.  They had seen a star indicating that he had been born.  They went to Jerusalem and started asking how to find him.  When King Herod, a rather jealous king, heard about this, he became worried.  He told them to go find this newborn king and then come back and tell him where the baby was so he could go and worship him too.

Yeah, right, Herod.  I see what you did there.

The Magi continued on their journey, and then…..

11 They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh.

12 In a dream, they were warned not to report back to Herod. So they worked out another route, left the territory without being seen, and returned to their own country.   –Matthew 2:11-12, The Message

Here’s what I love most about the story.  They were there for the right reasons.  They were there to worship the newborn King, not serve Herod and his priorities.

But then there’s this–“In a dream, they…..”

When have you ever dreamed with another person?  Never, right?  So these Magi–some say scholars, others say kings–each of them had a dream…..individually.  I’d love to have been a fly on the wall the next morning.

“Ummm,” one of them takes a big gulp of his coffee, looking for some way to put his thoughts into words.  “I know we all were on board with this plan to go back to Herod and tell him so he can come worship as he said, but…..” Another gulp of coffee.  “Oh never mind.”

Another one, slightly stooped as he rolls up his knapsack, speaks with his slow and deep voice, a voice that makes you listen for the wisdom therein.  “No brother, what were you going to say?  I want to hear it.”

The first one shakes his head.  “No the lack of sleep and the excitement of the past few days, all of that has my mind a little mixed up.  It’s nothing.  Let’s head on out.”

Still another one, the youngest of the travelers, speaks up.  “Well I don’t know about any of you but I didn’t sleep very well.  I dreamt all night.  And such vivid dreams.  They gave me no rest or peace.”

The second man, finished with his journey preparations, leans against his pack and says,  “Dreams?  Really?  Tell us about them.”

The dreamer shakes his head.  “Man, I’m telling you, it was so real.  But still nothing for us to base any decisions on.  I guess I’m just worried about the trip back.  That’s probably all it is.”  He pauses.  Then he slaps his thigh with his right hand and looks at the others rather sheepishly.  “Okay, all right, y’all are never going to believe this, but I dreamed we shouldn’t go back to Herod….we should go back another way and head home without even stopping back by like we said we would.  Is that crazy or what?!”

Eyes pop and mouths open with disbelief.

“I had that dream too!” “I can’t believe it, that was my dream too!”  “But what can this mean?”  “So should we follow what we were all told in our dreams or are we heading back to Herod?”

I love it.  I don’t know that this is how it played out–all we are given is one verse for what I think is a very important part of the story…..they were told in a dream, they went back another way.  The End.

But it’s not.  As we listened to this story at Evening Prayer last night, I thought again about how this might have happened.  Thank goodness they were obedient, yes, but I am really thankful that the first one spoke up about the dream.  Can you imagine the tension inside each one (much like the tension inside of me when a dream is rambling around looking for a way out), fearing that he would have to be the one to share what his dream was–to the disbelief and scowling looks of his fellow travelers?  That he would have to be the one to look crazy? And yet, share it he must.  Did any one of them understand the real importance of the dream?  The importance of obedience?  Thank goodness at least one did.  And it was a very good thing.

But here’s the lesson that sticks with me, in my mind and my heart, from this story.

Never be afraid to share your dreams.

Who know who else has also been given that dream to make it happen….with you?

And that’s what I know.  In this year of “with,” in this life of with, I know that nothing I am to do is me and me alone.  Our dreams can only come to fruition if shared with others, and if we all work together toward reaching that star…..it is there we will find the Gift it shines to honor.

Share your dreams, even if they seem crazy; who knows what good and right things can come from it?

For the fun of it, from a show we watched every Christmas.  I seem to particularly remember Daddy loving this show–

Finally, a great song about dreaming from one of my favorite musicals–and yes that is Mr. Donny Osmond…..