Twelve Days and Epiphany

I enjoy Bible trivia and church history.  When I was younger, I used to hear the song The Twelve Days of Christmas.  I always liked singing five golden rings loudly, but did you know there are twelve days of Christmas.  It is a festival that started on December 25, Christmas, and ending on January 5, also known as Christmastide in some traditions.  The next day after the twelve days, January 6, is known as Epiphany.

I also enjoy the church calendar year.  It may sound a little strange for a Baptist, but it is informative and helps us to look at many details of our faith in a much bigger picture.  Epiphany Sunday commemorates the visit of the Magi (it is also where we get our English word magistrate) or Wise Men.  Although they were not men of the Jewish faith they did see the sign of God in the stars.  They decided to go and see for themselves this “King of the Jews.”  It may be a common belief that the Wise Men were at the manger, but it could have been as much as two years after the birth and before the family fled to Egypt.

What does all this have to do with an Epiphany?  An epiphany is a sudden appearance of or understanding of something previously unknown.  Usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.  The Wise Men were doing what they always did in studying the sky and then suddenly something new was there in what had been predictable patterns.  A moment of extraordinary in the ordinary that changed them forever.

What about us?  In the time after Christmas and before Lent, that time after the rush of Christmas many people can feel down.  The days are still short, the nights are long, family and friends are back to life as normal, bills from extra Christmas purchases and cold weather electric costs can add up.  There can be a sense that normal life is a struggle and we can lose sight of Christ.

We need a glimpse of the extraordinary in the ordinary.  We need the realization that Christ is in all of life, not just in Christmas and Easter.  Christ is in all of life, real life and in a moment, when we least expect it…we may just see a glimpse of him there.  A glimpse in the smile of another, unexpected visit or phone call, the grace of a loved one, and in the faces of the people around us.  Faces that if we look closely we may just see the face of God in the face of a stranger.  Although they may be unknown to us we see the familiar in them, the face of Christ.

Will you look at the faces of others for that moment when Christ will be may aware to you in them?  When others see you, will the see the face of Christ?  Paul shares in Colossians 1:27b “…Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  Now that is an epiphany that can both be experienced and shared.

Monday, December 26, 2016, Advent Devotion Closing Note

Dear Friends,

Thank you for taking this Journey to the Manger with me.  It is one of my greatest joys to share in the excitement and anticipation of Christ coming to our world on that night in Bethlehem.  It is the beginning of another journey through the earthly life of Jesus that culminates in his death, burial, and resurrection which is our hope.

Christ remained on earth a short time making appearances to his disciples and even as many as 500 people at once confirming his resurrection.  Jesus then ascends to be with the Father.

We are a people living in a time where we remember his coming, his sacrifice, his resurrection, and we look forward to his coming again.  We see it in the symbols of our faith like baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  This we do in remembrance of him.  In remembering we also anticipate another coming of Christ in all his glory.  May we be the community of faith in the world today, until he comes.

Blessings to each of you in the year ahead!

Pastor Greg Soult

Antioch Baptist Church

Advent 2016

Sunday, December 25, 2016, Christmas Evening

Week 4 Love

1 John 4:7-16

We coming to the end of this Advent journey and celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  We have a longer journey as we await the return of Jesus to the world.  We looking longingly and expectantly for his return.  The question remains what then do we do as we wait?  The answer is tied to our identity as the people of God formed in the identity of Christ.

I leave you with these words from John’s letter.  He says it well.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

13 This is how we know that we live in him and him in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

Sunday, December 25, 2016 Christmas Morning

Week 4 Love

John 1:14

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

In the shadow of the light of our trees and the glow in our children’s eyes this morning may we remember the true celebration.  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  The Word who was at creation, the Word that was in the fires of the furnace, the Word that was reveal and spoken through the Prophets, that Word that was promised and that Word that brings salvation.  The Word is now here in the flesh and came to us in a manger not able to speak a word yet, only coos and cries.

Through the glowing lights and faces of the morning are you able to see his glory, his glory is the glory of the one and only Son?  There is not another Son coming from God.  There is not another who will be sent from the Father.  Have you not only heard the word, but have you seen the Word who is dwelling among us, in the faces of our families, and in the nameless faces in the world.  Shopping mall faces, gas station faces, and street corner faces.  Until we can see Christ dwelling among us in the faces of those around us, we perhaps haven’t seen the fullness of grace and truth.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, so that we can see the glory of the only Son of the Father.  He is full of grace and truth.  May we see his glory, experience his grace, and live out his truth.  Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2016 Christmas Eve

Week 4 Love

Luke 2:1-20

Today’s scripture is perhaps the most familiar account of the birth of Jesus.  It shares the circumstances in the world at the time of Jesus’ birth.  A Roman governor would require a census be taken and everyone would have to go to their hometown to register.  A non-religious, non-Jewish leader required a census that would require Jesus’ family to have to go to the exact place where prophecy said he would be born.  Only God could do this.

The word comes to the shepherds out in the fields doing their job at night.  The angel tells them the goo” news that is for everybody including lowly shepherds and you and me.  Telling them the good news of great joy for all the people.  Then the angel makes it personal, “today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, he is the Messiah, the Lord.  The angel gives an exact sign of where to look for and find the baby.  Only God could reveal this.

They go and see what the Lord had done and the angel had said, and it was true.  They shared with those they encountered after the encounter about the good news of great joy.  This news amazed people, it was Jesus’ story but it had also become their story.  Mary treasures all these things in her heart.  How could they have known how to find Jesus unless God revealed?

God works out the details in our lives for his glory.  He reveals this truth to us and others.  His story becomes our story as we encounter him.  The story is grounded in history, revealed in the present, and is shared for the future by each of us.  Will you tell others the timeless message, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born unto you?”

Friday, December 23, 2016

Week 4 Love

Luke 1:57-66

Speechless!  Zechariah didn’t understand how the message of Gabriel to him was practically possible.  The honest answer is that it is not possible, under human terms and understanding.  For the man of God who had been a servant of God for all these years should have known that God can do anything.

Zechariah and Elizabeth both wait with excitement for the arrival of John.  A lot happens in the nine months since they found out that John would coming into their lives.  In pregnancy people spend time preparing for the arrival of the child including picking a name.  A name is important.  It is not something the child chooses but is a projection of family identity, preferences, and their hopes and dreams for this yet unborn child.

When the child was born, Zechariah was still unable to speak and they ask what the name of the child will be and Elizabeth says, John.  They do not understand why the name is not a family name and so they wonder if there is some mistake.  They ask his father, Zechariah, and he writes down, “His name is John.”  You can almost hear him shout it.  It would almost seem disrespectful, Elizabeth had waited nine months to share him with the world and Zechariah had waited nine months to speak his beautiful son’s name John.  What a gift from God to Zechariah and Elizabeth, and what a beautiful gift to the world.  He will reveal at the right time the identity and purpose of the Messiah.  It all starts with a promise and a name.  What will you say about the names of John and Jesus?

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Week 4 Love

Luke 1:39-45

Mary goes out quickly to Zechariah’s house to see Elizabeth.  This is the one person she knew understood what God was doing in her life.  She was experiencing this same working of God in her own life.  When Mary arrived, and went in and greeted Elizabeth something great happened.  The baby John leaped for joy in his mother’s womb at the sound of Mary’s voice.  A sign of recognition and his role.  John would be a little older than Jesus.  He would go ahead of Jesus preparing the way for Jesus.  He would throughout his life he recognized Jesus for who he is, and understand his role in God’s plan.

How about you and I?  When we hear the name of Jesus does it illicit a response.  Are we leaping for joy because we know Christ is near?  Just like these greetings of Gabriel, is the nearness of Christ to us for our good?  John would, in that moment, and throughout his life recognize who Jesus was.  It was that recognition that helped him to understand his role because of who Jesus is.  When we recognize who, Jesus is, it will become more clear what our role is in the world today.  John was the forerunner, we are his agents of his good news.  Do you know him?  What is your role in his Kingdom’s work in the world today?