I have just returned from numerous errands. The January cold imposed a chill on me in spite of my warm coat. As I hurried into the house, I assessed our Christmas decorations. Fraser fir needles threatened to overtake the living room rug. Still, I whispered a compliment to our drooping tree. “You served us well this year.” With that, I hung my coat in the closet and sat by the tree for a while. Though I shivered in spite of the humming furnace, I soon forgot my discomfort as I perused the tree from top to bottom. My eyes eventually rested on the crèche below. I wondered what Mary and Joseph were doing two millennia ago. What was their life like after the excitement of Jesus’ birth faded into the trials and tribulations of raising the baby boy destined to be the Messiah?
Our Christmas cards and carols offer peace-filled images of those early days with Jesus. They tell us that angels sang on that silent and holy night. Shepherds responded with awe. The drummer boy drummed. Night Wind asked Little Lamb, “Do you see what I see?” A more recent composition inquires, “Mary, did you know?” Beautiful as they are, our cards and carols overlook much of the reality of the First Christmas. For Mary and Joseph, Jesus’ arrival was an emotional and trying time. Still, the months and years that followed tested Mary and Joseph even more harshly.
On this Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, we attend to the astrologers who traveled a terribly long distance to find Jesus. They amazed Mary and Joseph with their reverence for the child. Little did any of them realize that this visit extended Jesus’ ministry to the entire world, far beyond his own Jewish community. Unfortunately, the Magi’s unprecedented act of faith came at a great price. When they stopped at Herod’s palace to learn what he might have known about the newborn king, the Magi inadvertently alerted the tyrant to a possible threat to his throne. Fortunately, the three were indeed wise men. They heeded an angel’s warning to avoid Herod when they returned to their homeland. While the Magi shared the good news of Jesus’ birth in their own country, Herod responded with the slaughter of all Jewish boys under the age of two, thus ridding himself of the potential king. Peace on earth, indeed…
Joseph, a wise man as well, also listened to an angel who directed him to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt. The Holy Family remained there until an angel brought news of Herod’s death. Though Joseph hoped to return to Judea, he found that Herod’s son occupied the throne. To avoid any possible threat to Jesus, Joseph moved his family to Galilee and settled in Nazareth. There, Joseph and Mary raised Jesus to be a devout Jew and a good carpenter. The next mention of Jesus in the scriptures is a trip to Jerusalem during Passover when Jesus stayed behind to study in the temple while his parents journeyed home. After this passage, the gospels lapse again until Jesus’ public ministry which began at age thirty. That shiver takes hold of me again as I consider how Mary and Joseph helped Jesus to prepare for that day.
I allowed myself several minutes with our Christmas Tree before beginning this writing. As I reflect upon the Epiphany of the Lord, I consider Jesus’ impact on this world of ours. Mary and Joseph refocused their entire lives because of Jesus. The Magi carried the good news to places where it would otherwise have remained unknown because they sought out Jesus. Jesus’ ministry turned his own world topsy-turvy. It also changed the course of human history. Jesus’ arrival has impacted my life as well.
So it is that I ask myself how I share Jesus’ influence with those around me. My husband and I truly enjoy preparing our home for Christmas. Every light strung and ornament hung speaks what our hearts cannot put into words. If I am honest, I must admit that everything I do speaks what my heart cannot put into words. Every action I initiate and every response to life around me testifies to Jesus’ presence in my life more than anything I might say aloud or in my writing. It seems to me that today’s feast provides me the opportunity to assess what it is that these actions and responses are saying. Am I revealing Jesus’ message of love and mercy, forgiveness and welcome? I am grateful that I have all of New Year 2015 to respond!
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