given on Sunday, January 3, 2015
An opening thought: Today is Epiphany Sunday and it is coupled with communion, as is our local tradition of serving communion on the first Sunday of the month. Epiphany is the final celebration of Christ’s birth while communion is the covenant reminder of Christ’s death: the beginning and the end: the alpha and the omega.
Looking in a mirror does not always reveal the most flattering image of one’s self. Yet using a mirror to inspect one’s appearance may be one of the most important steps before leaving the house. As the mirror image shares with you what it sees, do you approve?
At the local vo-tech school, a full-length mirror is posted just inside the entrance, near the office. Above it is the question: “Would you hire this person?“
Maybe Epiphany is the perfect time to look into a mirror and ask, “Would God hire you to be his messenger?” Epiphany marks the end of the holiday season and the beginning of a new calendar year. Conversations often are filled with a discussion on resolutions.
Resolutions are positive motivators for those who manage to make them and stick to them, but personally that is a struggle. Maybe I should make them, but then when I fail, the emotional fall out is disappointing even embarrassing.
Yet, the change from one calendar year to the next is an excellent time to look into a mirror and check one’s self. Are we satisfied that what we see is someone God would hire?
God, as the creator, designed a world that was to meet the needs of his children—as long as we followed his directions. Yet, we were also given free will and as time moved forward, the choices humans made began eroding the relationship between God and his children. God sent messages and time passed.
By the time God decided to send Jesus personally, he needed a team to carry out the work needing to be done. The surprise Mary and Joseph experienced when the angels visited them, probably left them feeling inadequate. But God saw more than they could see in a mirror.
God needed faithful, good people who could handle all the ridicule others would throw at them. He needed those who could handle unknown battles while Jesus grew up. God knew Mary and Joseph and he tasked them with raising the baby Jesus.
Accepting the roles of Jesus’s parents is what each parent yet today does, too. If we look into the mirror, do we have the faith modeled by Mary and Joseph? Stepping into another year, evaluate your implementation of John Wesley’s acts of piety. Could you list them as strengths on a resume or job application?
The Christmas story includes others who demonstrated extraordinary faith. God placed them in positions to tell others about Jesus’ birth. The shepherds followed the angels’ summons to see the baby Jesus with their own eyes.
Shepherds do not leave the pastures or meadows where the sheep are eating. The decision to leave the mountainside was out of the ordinary, but they took the risk. They were eyewitnesses of the most important event, and they carried the story to family and friends. Can you picture yourself risking your job to see a newborn who is not even in your family?
The Christmas story continues. Mary and Joseph came to Bethlehem to register, and now the baby is born, visitors are coming in and so much is changing. Giving birth in ancient days included different practices, and quickly returning home was not an option.
Epiphany celebrates the visit of the three wise men. These men came “thousands of miles” to find the King. Today, would you be so confident in your research that you would travel hundreds even thousands of miles on foot or camel to prove a theory? The conviction to stand by your words is a desirable quality in workers, in spouses, in parents, as well as in friendships.
The skills God needed from the faithful carried the news of Jesus’ birth throughout the millenniums. As the wise men arrived, saw the new king, and shared gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, the truth of the wise men’s theory is realized.
The epiphany or realization that this baby is indeed the Messiah begins a series of events that takes 30 years to unfold. Look in the mirror, has Christmas provided you an epiphany? As you look into the new year, does the mirror show you what strengths you have to answer God’s call to you? What are the weaknesses that need improving in order to do God’s work?
The three wise men had studied the stars, probably read all the prophets, talked to other wise men, and finally made the decision to set out on a journey to find Baby Jesus. Imagine their epiphany when all the years and all the miles they invested in the search for the new king prove what they predicted.
The story of Jesus, the Messiah, began thanks to the skills and the faith of Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the wise men. The story that is shared in the scripture continues to lead us to our own epiphany about the truth of Jesus Christ. As we look into the mirror, may we see what God sees in us—that we, too, have the skills and the drive to continue sharing the story of Jesus Christ.
The Christmas story is the beginning of the New Covenant. God looks for those who have the strength to serve, who have the skills needed, and the faith to trust that as long as we love one another as we want to be loved, we can do all that we can for all those we can in as many ways as we can.
And as Lent quickly races toward us, we look at the mirror to check that we are ready for God to use us. This Epiphany, look in the mirror and prepare to do commit to your covenant with God through the sacrament of communion.
As Matthew was telling the ancient Jewish people, the Old Covenant was replaced with a New Covenant. He shared the story of Jesus’ last Passover:
20 When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve;[a] 21 and while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, “Surely not I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”
The Wise Men visited a baby and knew that he was the King of the Jews. They did not return to King Herod, instead they returned to their own homes—thousands of miles away. For 30 years, the story did not continue as expected. Then for three short years, Jesus changed the world. But the story did not end.
Jesus set into place, the new law based on love. On that last night with the Apostles, Jesus shared the cup and the bread. He commissioned them to carry on the task of loving one another and spreading the good news. This Epiphany Sunday, look in the mirror. Would God hire you to carry on?
As you join in communion, consider the covenant we make with God to share the story. We do have the skills and the strength, each in our own way, to love one another as we want to be loved. By doing that, we honor and love God above all else.
Closing prayer (UMH 255): The Epiphany Prayer
You made of one blood all nations,
and, by a star in the East,
revealed to all peoples him whose name is Emmanuel.
Enable us who know your presence with us
ao to proclaim his unsearchable riches
and that all may come to his lift
and bow before the brightness of his rising,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
now and for ever. Amen.