Day Thirty Five: Enter The Mystery

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
Isaiah 60:1-6
Ephesians 3:1-12
Matthew 2:1-12

Embodied God,
on the ladder between the home of heaven and earth’s dwelling place,
the crack between the worlds,
a baby journeyed, belonging to both.
Tess Ward

Epiphany is the story of the Wise Men – philosophers, astrologers, or mystics – who travelled across countries from the East in response to the sudden appearance, the showing forth of a star, the sign of long-awaited King; bearing with them all the way precious gifts fit for the One whom they sought:
~ gold, symbolising his wealth and, some scholars speculate, financing the holy family’s exile into Egypt before the Massacre of the Innocents;
~ frankincense, representing his holiness;
~ and myrrh, foreshadowing his early death.

Occurring on the Eastern date of Christmas, January 6, it celebrates the gift of God to all people and reminds us, particularly while the year is fresh and new, of our own journeys:
what has brought us to this particular place
and point in time,
and what unchartered territory we might well venture into if we truly long for and look for the signs of God’s guiding presence in our lives.

Having been given a glimpse over this season into the enigma of a God too big to know or truly comprehend who becomes small enough to hold in human arms,
we are invited to enter fully into the unfolding mystery of God’s love for us,
and for the whole world;
and to walk boldly, decisively, faithfully
in the light of God’s glory –
long after the tree has been taken down
and the ornaments packed away
and the final guest has gone
and the merriment has passed ….

“Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.”
Isaiah 60:1

This day, and every day,
the star(s), reminds us to step out of the ordinary confines of human existence into the extraordinary adventure of a life filled with the power and creativity and movement of God’s presence;
to move beyond the boundaries of the seen and known, of reason, of geography, of budgets, of daily routine into the realm of hope and possibility;
to examine whether we living our best possible life:

… a life lived with a deep awareness of our connection to God, to one another, to the world around us, to enemy and to stranger …
… an open-eyed life in which we look constantly for evidence of God with us, in the familiar and in the unexpected …
… a life in which we are not bound by rules and routines so much as liberated by Love, to love – in simple acts of kindness as well as extravagant, outrageous, generous gestures …
… a life in which work is a joy and a reward, and rest is protected and savoured …
… a life in which our immediate answer is not “No” when we are confronted by the uncomfortable, the unknown, the unplanned for; nor “Yes” to everything that is simply expected from us …
… a life of seeking and searching, sitting with questions, sharing stories, seeing new perspectives, standing steady on what we know to be true: “See! I am with you! I am here in your midst!”

Light of the World,
Sun which does not go down,
Bright Mystery,
give us each day a glimpse of Your glory;
an epiphany of where we fit
into Your heart and Your plan.
Amen. 

Day Four: Stand Tall

Psalm 79
Micah 5:1-5a
Luke 21:34-38

The story of Israel is a pedestrian one – in quite a literal sense!

From Abraham, who left his family and inheritance behind him in obedience to God’s command, to Moses who led a nation of slaves through the wilderness towards a land of milk and honey, to the regular pilgrimages to the temple in Jerusalem that their faith required, the people of Israel rigorously put one foot in front of the other in order to follow where God led.

The exile into Babylon – which seemed like the end to so many – was yet another step in the journey; just as the return and rebuilding would be.

As God’s people lamented their sins and pleaded for mercy … “may your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need” (Psalm 79:8b, NIV) … a promise was delivered of a Saviour, a ruler who would “stand tall in his shepherd-rule by God’s strength, centred in the majesty of God-Revealed. And the people will have a good and safe home, for the whole world will hold him in respect—Peacemaker of the world!”
(Micah 5:4-5, The Message).

This is the promised Messiah for whom many Jews are still watching and waiting, hoping and praying. Yet, for many of us who call ourselves Christ-followers and regularly proclaim, “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again,” the urgent plea for the coming of his kingdom of shalom has too frequently been replaced by polite prayers for God to please do something for someone in a place we can’t even point to on a map ….

The season of Advent provides us with the opportunity to consider how our faith, our commitment to follow, our pursuit of righteousness and mercy  has been dulled down by parties and drinking and shopping, lulled by the drudgery of daily routines, overridden by road rage and envy and a grand sense of entitlement, or buried beneath #hashtags and photoshopped faces.

As Luke warned his listeners to stay on their guard, praying constantly for wisdom and strength that they might end up on their feet before the Son of Man, so do the days leading up to Christmas call us from our complacency to stand tall and follow our Shepherd-ruler faithfully, that his peace may become a present reality in today’s world rather than the pleasant “one-day” dream that we ask for by rote.

If you are anything like me, you may well be wondering where to begin. One of the greatest reasons for our apathy and inactivity is often the sheer size of the problem ….

world_problems.jpg

                                                                                                                . < me

Yet, as Micah prophesies of the coming Messiah, he reveals a vital truth to hold onto: the salvation of the world comes from small things.

Just as the Messiah would be born to the tribe of Judah, the runt of the litter, in the tiny town of Bethlehem, so too can the most extraordinary, unexpected journeys begin with a small step of faith.

Today, put aside your Bible and/or journal in favour of standing up and taking a practical step towards making the kingdom a present reality. For example,  

Walk around your neighbourhood. Smile at people you pass and pray for them as your footsteps take you further. Or put a doggy watering station or a bench out on your pavement to encourage others to pause for a while.

Pin up a map, pick a place, learn all you can about what life is like for the people there and pray for them. Support an organisation offering help or care there. Go on a pilgrimage if you are able.

***

World problem’s image sourced at http://www.diplomacypakistan.com/articles/the-solution-to-the-worlds-problems-lies-not-in-new-economic-policies-or-military-alliances-but-in-love/