EPIPHANY – jan 6

At about that time some astrologers from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in far-off eastern lands and have come to worship him.”  Matthew 2:1-2

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Epiphany as a Christian feast finds its earliest reference in AD 361 by Ammianus Marcellinus.  This day, marking the end of Christmastide, celebrates the announcement to the entire world of the arrival of the Christ – the union of human and divine – in the child named Jesus.

The child Jesus was brought into existence to proclaim first to the Jewish shepherds and secondly to all non-Jews the birth of a new order in the world where man and God are united.   This baby Jesus was proclaimed to all mankind, regardless of race and creed or sex and lifestyle, as a king, savior and messiah.  Jesus, the man, through teachings and words attributed to him, asserted the worth and value of all humankind.  None is excluded.  Neither you nor I, Muslim nor Hindu, American nor Mexican is missing a seat at his table.  That is the essence of the feast of Epiphany.  Love and compassion incarnate came into the world to show us how to live.

 

 

injustice – elie wiesel

“Injustice may inspire anger or rebellion, but must not create despair.  Injustice has been part of our world since its beginning……..despair is when you no longer believe in anything.” ELIE WIESEL, The Night of the Uprooting

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CHRISTMASTIDE – Dec 25th-Jan6th

Yes, this is an appropriate quote for the season of Christmastide.  Why do we think the concept of a Savior and Deliverer was introduced to the world with the story of Jesus, born in Bethlehem?  Why do we marvel that this babe was announced to shepherds, the lowest class of Hebrew society only a step above lepers?  The world of Judaism 2000 years ago is a case study in oppression and social injustice from not only the Roman conquerors, but also the Jewish religious hierarchy.

Elie Wiesel suffered the most inhumane form of injustice at the hands of the Nazis in the death camps of Hitler.  He could not approach the significance of his internment for several years after being freed by the Allied Forces.  Fortunately for us, he eventually saw the writing of his story as a duty to the Jewish nation and the world.  He shared the pain and the horror of the Nazi atrocities in his subsequent books.  Mr. Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.

Any of us today, me included, would surely “be inspired to anger or rebellion” if subjected to the same treatment as the Jews of 1930s and 1940s.  Justifiably so.  But, how many of us would  not curl up in despair?  Whom among us would be able to sustain faith, hope, and love while starving in the humiliation, the cold, the desolation of a prison camp where survival is a daily challenge?  I pray that neither you nor I ever have to suffer those consequences.

Despair is our enemy.  Not having hope is a death sentence of the soul, but faith in the unknowns of this life inspires hope and defeats despair.  The Christmas story, whether I believe it to be reality or you believe it to be myth, tells us how to relate to a world filled with violence, hatred, oppression, intolerance.  The life and teachings of Jesus portrayed by ancient scriptures is a blueprint to living life abundantly with faith, hope, and love in the midst of man’s inhumanity toward man.

We are witness today to unfathomable social injustice which should make us angry and rebellious.  But it does not need to devour us with despair.  That is the essence of the gift presented to us by the birth of a child 2000 years ago.  It is up to you and I to make it a marvelous myth or a life-saving reality.  Our concept of Jesus is hope in a seemingly hopeless world.

Let it be real as the morning sunshine, the stars in the nighttime sky, the singing of angelic children.  Let us discover, now, in the midst of turbulence and injustice the strength of faith, hope and love.  Lead us to defeat despair with the power of his eternal story.

philippians 4:7

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CHRISTMASTIDE – Feast of St. Stephen

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.

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Tell me something.  How far are you willing to go to defend your property?  Or your integrity?  Or your person?  Or, for veterans and military personnel, your country?  Or your family?  Good.  I knew all my readers were men and women of honorable character.  Now, how far would you go to defend your love for Jesus or whomever you name as Lord of your life?  Hmmm, let’s talk about it.

Chronologically, I have been the boy fearful of a judgemental white-haired man in the sky, the strident atheist, the unsure agnostic, the sure-footed Christian with all the right answers, the doubting Thomas, and the child of God living in the mystery and awe of an Almighty presence.

But, I have never feared becoming a martyr for my faith.  We are indeed fortunate and blessed to live in a society where we can fearlessly worship, or not, as we choose.  Much of the world does not have that luxury.  What about you?  Are there elements of faith which you will never abandon, no matter what the cost?

While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”  When he had said this, he died.  Acts 7:59-60

Is there any reason to doubt this account of the follower of Jesus who, 2 years after Jesus’ crucufixion, was stoned to death by those who considered his testimony blasphemous?  We are witness in our age to televised beheadings by radical elements of religion.  They are disturbing and frightening, but no more so than what the early Christians faced when proclaiming their faith.

Today, the 2nd day of Christmastide, parts of the Christian world celebrate the Feast of St. Stephen, Christianity’s first recorded martyr after Jesus himself.  What would I do?  How about you?  I would like to think I’ll be on the front lines willing to take a bullet for Jesus and my faith.  And then, as I lay there dying, I would say, “Lord , forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing?”

Really?  Could I be a willing and forgiving martyr?  Hmmmm, something to think about.

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CHRISTMASTIDE – Hallelujah!

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.

By now everybody has been wearied by Christmas.  Can’t wait to take down the decorations (Lord knows they’ve been up since the day after Thanksgiving), put the tree back up in the attic, exchange all those stupid sweaters and pen sets you got for something you really need, and clean house preparing for New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Whoa!  What’s the rush?  We are in Christmastide now.  What?  You never heard of the 12 days of Christmas.  Yeah, aside from the partridge in the pear tree there is a liturgical calendar which says those 12 days run from December 25th to January 6th of 2019.  This is when the commercialization and the hectic pace of pre-Christmas insanity finally takes a back seat to a season of fully appreciating the birth of Jesus.  Christmastide ends on January 6 with the feast of Epiphany.

If you love your decorations and the nativity scene, just tell your complaining neighbors or your wife that it is perfectly proper, liturgically, to keep those joys of Christmas on display at least until January 6th.  If they should lament having to see your lights and wreaths and tree and the baby Jesus on the front lawn another 12 days, inform them that the Catholic Christmastide lasts for 40 days into February and you are considering converting to Catholicism.

No, don’t do that.  I am being facetious.   The official church calendar calls this period the ‘octave of Christmas’, because in those 12 days are 8 solemn days of rejoicing, days emphasized by particular joy, lavishness, pomp, and glory.  These are days to shout Hallelujah, meaning ‘praise ye the Lord’.  And why is that?  Because the baby whom we celebrate, literally or symbolically, has changed the world unlike any other event, or story, in history.

“Praise ye the Lord.  O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” Psalm 106:1

I like that.  There is something comforting, something joyful in knowing that we trust a good, merciful God who sent us a baby, the greatest story ever told, to teach the world how to love. HALLELUJAH!

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CHRISTMASTIDE – Dec 25-Jan 5

Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane.  It’s quiet.  It’s peaceful.  Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name.  Green pastures, still waters, my cup overflows.

“For unto us a child is born, a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6

Emmanuel – God with us!  The words of Isaiah foretelling a messiah were written many centuries before the New Testament, as we know it, was compiled from writings by the early followers of Jesus of Nazareth.  But, the message could not be any clearer because the world was not that much different back then from the world we have today.  Violence, oppression, intolerance, and poverty ruled the everyday lives of the commoners of the Jewish people.  And they, especially the acclaimed prophets, looked to a time when peace and justice would prevail.

Put aside the busyness of the season, forget about the rush to get a holiday dinner together for family, don’t worry about all those gifts that will be returned tomorrow.  Celebrate with gusto this day because it is a phenomenal event for the world.  Along with the sumptuous meals and joyous festivities, remember on this day the blessings of a gracious, loving God who dwells within each of us.  We can name that God whatever our tradition or conscience dictates, wherever the Spirit within leads, because on this day we have been freed from spiritual oppression and spiritual poverty through Emmanuel.  God with us. 

“For if the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed.”  John 8:36

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