Time with our Young People:
Last days of Christmas. Little Christmas when the three kings arrive at the stable and complete the Nativity. Epiphany. Manifestation of God as infant. (The Baptism of Jesus as manifestation of God, but get to that in a little bit).
As we close Christmas, all the different people who came together to “make it happen”. Not alone. Each with unique gift. Not just frankincense and myrrh, but of themselves. We each have a unique gift to bring forth into the world and maybe our gift is represented in those that bring the nativity together:
Maybe you are crafty or handy, like Joseph the carpenter. Or a good, protective father and husband.
Maybe you are more quiet and reflective and ponder things. Like Mary. Or are a gentle mother.
Maybe you like to tend the earth and the animals. Like the shepherds.
Maybe you like to sing out and proclaim, musical, like the angels.
Maybe you like science and math, like the three wise men.
Maybe you see yourself in someone else or something else in the scene…
The important thing is to remember that we are all different. We each bring different things to this world. Pay close attention, we see the gifts we are meant to share. We could call them God’s Gifts. Or Spirit Gifts. The important thing is to recognize the gifts in ourselves and the gifts in others and honor and use those gifts for Goodness.
This Week: Notice your gifts. Notice the gifts others bring to the world. Bonus, notice the gifts people bring into the world of people you don’t find as easy to be around or don’t like very much…
Epiphany. Peace. Hope. New beginning. The new year. All of these things are entangled in these weeks transitioning from Christmas to Epiphany. The Epiphany of Jesus by the three wise men who finalize the scene of Christmas and bridge Christmas into Epiphany.
Epiphany is also found at Jesus’s Baptism. This time, not by three wise men, but by God who descends from above in the Spirit of the dove. The symbol of peace, hope, and new beginnings.
They both say: this is God Incarnate. This is a new beginning of hope and peace. Jesus is Called to act in the world with Grace, peace, kindness…compassion. To walk with. To suffer with.
We have our own mini epiphanies in life when we realize a simple, clear, and deeper truth. Those are magical moments. Mystery moments.
We have our own baptisms. More often than not, we won’t remember our own baptism. Many of us had our baptisms when we were very young. We checked the box, moved on, and many of us haven’t thought about it since.
We hear about baptism in novels and movies and stories. Mostly when young babies are born ill and they must be baptized before “it’s too late”. I remember when my nephews were born. They were born quite prematurely and we in the NICU for quite a while. I remember my uncle was in the area shortly after they were born (he was a minister). He came to see them to baptize them in the hospital. Just in case loomed.
Baptism isn’t always a blessing in, and of, joyous times. It’s part of a time of fear, anxiety, uncertainty…and yes, grief. Sometimes, it’s not a Call to work in this world. It is something else. Something we don’t understand.
Sometimes, we don’t think about things that are so present and imprinted on our lives, until we need them in our hardest times of life. Sometimes, God and faith comes up when we need an anchor in a usually smooth flowing life. In times when we can no longer handle it “alone” (quotes, because we are never alone).
One might say that’s not the “right” way to come to God, but I’m not sure there’s a “right” way. If there is, I’m not going to claim I know it…especially not for everyone. If God and Church and Baptism is there, when you need it, just in case, that’s okay. Because we all come to Grace in our own way. Often it’s those times that cultivate a deepness of faith, whether we proclaim it aloud or treasure it in our hearts. It’s easy to judge from the outside looking in what people are doing “right” or “wrong”, but we can not read into another’s heart. So just love. Have faith. In others. In yourself. Grace has a tendency to grow and creep up on us…in its own time. I’m certainly not one to put a timetable on a relationship to the great Mystery.
Sometimes, it’s what we need to know it’s there. We may not put our attention toward Grace as much as we (maybe) “should”. But we still are comforted by God’s hand just knowing…it, whatever “it” is, is there when we need it.
I know I have always found comfort knowing that services are going on around me. Whether I show up or not. That there is consistency. That when I need it…I have a place to go. That’s why we open our doors on Christmas Morning. Few, or no one, may show up…but it’s a comfort to know…it’s there if you need it.
I remember a video during those early days of Covid of “creative baptisms”. One priest was using squirt guns to fire the holy water onto those being baptized. We laugh, but it also speaks to the importance of this moment in the Bible and in our lives. .
For Jesus, this is his Call to his formal Work in this world. To Compassion and gentleness in all hardship. Forgiveness and Love within deepest pain.
What is it for us? .
A cleansing and clearing away of that which binds us and holds us back and makes us…”dirty”. Shedding the past so we can begin anew. A new beginning. A promise of salvation. A deep Blessing. A uniting. That’s what it does…for us. What does baptism ask of us? .
Perhaps take a moment to remember or imagine your own baptism.
What did it mean? What does it mean? Marked for Grace…that’s pretty awesome. It unites us formally to one another and to God. That’s pretty awesome.
What if we’re marked, just like Jesus, to a Call to our Work in this world? What are we being Called to do? What are we being cleansed…for?
What might that work be? For each of us? We talked about different gifts with the young people, what are your Gifts that you bring into this world? Don’t tell me you don’t have one, you do, remember you’re “marked” by Grace (whether you are baptized or not).
As we remember our baptism and our affirmations of faith, perhaps we also reflect on our Yes! to that faith. Our Yes! to God (whatever God means to you). Our Yes! to Life.
Our Yes! to peace, love, gentleness, kindness, hope, faith, passion, compassion…ALL of it. Perhaps our yes to this life and our place in it. Focused on God and blessed by God. And if that feels too big and confusing and Mysterious…focused simply on those around us who need us. That’s Good Word.
Perhaps we have gotten complacent. Taken our blessings and gifts of Grace, our baptism and affirmations, and have deviated from the mark. Maybe this time of Baptism and Epiphany, we remember our Call and hone in on our aim. What are we, each of us, baptized to? What are we, all of us, baptized to together?
Perhaps, we simple say yes. Yes to Grace. Yes to Life. Yes to being God’s Hands in this world as much as possible. We need so much more kindness and love and hope and gentleness and compassion in this world. Yes to being Good People. Yes to continually following the Path, even, and especially, when it’s hard and when we stray.
And remembering that we have nothing to “prove”. We are already loved by Grace, perhaps that is the greatest gift of our baptism. To remind us we are deeply Loved. We are “marked” by that all encompassing Love. This is our time to recall where we were, where we are, and what we have to share in this Uniting of Grace. This baptism. This epiphany.