Epiphany – Light Has Come into the World!

I had moved away from blogging during the early part of the pandemic to focus on video as a needed medium of communication. But, in this new year 2022 I’m getting back to blogging.

Today is Epiphany. This is the last day of the Christmas Season (the 12th day of Christmas) when we celebrate the light of Christ coming into the world and the travels of the Magi to see Jesus who, by this time, was born at least two years ago. (It is a long trip for the Magi!)

Epiphany has not always been focused on all that much by Protestants. Once we get past December 25th and New Years we seem to forget the Christmas Season. But I believe Epiphany and the light of Christ coming into the world is as important and emphasis now as ever.

Recently I removed most of the news apps from my iPhone and I moved the main Apple News app to a less visible location. I did this because I realized through out the Covid-19 pandemic and all that has gone on socially and politically in the last couple of years that I had become news obsessed. I checked the new regularly for pandemic stats, for stories of what was going on in the world to fight the pandemic, etc. almost obsessively. I think many of us did!

I’ve come to realize that an obsession with the daily news cycle and the political news cycle can really be detrimental to my spiritual focus. And that has a Christian I need take make sure there is a balance between knowing what is going on in the world and celebrating the timeless truths of the gospel that we see celebrated in the Christian calendar cycle.

There are events in the news today (and every day) that can overshadow our personal spiritual focus. We can be so focused on this very moment that we fail to focus on the over all work of God in the world and in history. Into a messy world such as this Jesus was born. He was born to a ruler, not a secular ruler, but a the sovereign over all the universe. Christ came to be “God with us.” As we wrap of the Christmas Season today I would rather focus on God being with me and us than on today’s news and the hourly churn of the news cycle.

Remember, Christ came that we might have light and might have light and God’s love in abundance!

Happy Epiphany!

Tim Bonney

The Arrival of Hope

Finally, after much anticipation, preparation, and looking to the future we come this night to the Christmas Season when the Christ child will arrive!

We believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah of God. What we see in the New Testament is that Jesus does indeed come into this world with a mission from God to offer God’s love and grace to all! What we also learn in the scriptures is that Jesus does that on his own terms. We see in the gospels that Jesus often behaves in ways that are different from the expectations of his own disciples, those in his own community who would make him an earthly king and political ruler, or who would have him be the Messiah for only a select group of people.

But Jesus Christ did not come for us to tell him how he should save the world. He told us that his Kingdom was not of this world. He set his own direction for his ministry. Jesus came to be not just the savior of a people, but of all people. He came to offer love and freedom beyond our understanding, beyond our wildest expectations, and even beyond our own abilities to love others.

Know on this eve of Christmas that God through Jesus Christ came into this world because God loves you! Know that Jesus Christ came because he love loves all of humanity!

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life.” John 3:16 CEB

Have a blessed Christmas Season!

The Generosity of Hope

How do we learn to be generous and caring people? Many of us learned generosity from our parents. We saw them helping and giving to others. They generously gave their time and interest to us by raising us, taking care of us, and showing interest in us.

Many of us have learned about generosity through the church. As a small child I was encouraged by my parents and by the church to give to the church offering to learn about giving. The amount I was giving was small. But the lesson was that everyone is to be generous no matter who they are or what they have.  But ultimately we learn about generosity from God.

God’s generosity this week is shown to us in the coming of John the Baptizer who came preaching a message of repentance AND offering a way for us to repent through baptism and through the hope of a coming Messiah. While John offered baptism he promised that one would be coming who would also bring the gift of the Holy Spirit.

We probably talk less about the Holy Spirit than we do Jesus or God the Father. But the Holy Spirit as part of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is that part of God that guides us, lives with us and dwells in us. It is the Holy Spirit that teaches us and prompts us. It is the Holy Spirit that participates in God’s never ending pursuit of a relationship. The Holy Spirit is God with us!

We learn in this season of hope that we have a loving and generous God who lavishly pours out love, grace, and peace on us!

The Way of Hope

When we think about “The Way of Hope” in Advent I think about the message of of John the Baptist whose ministry echo’s Isaiah’s text, “A voice crying the the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord.”

For American Protestant Christians “prepare” seems to mean an ever increasing flurry of activities and plans during the Advent Christmas season. But almost every Advent/Christmas I find myself asking, Have I/we taken on too much? Have we over planned and over scheduled this season? Have we mistaken the call to “prepare the way” with being busy rather than preparing our own hearts? Are just filling our lives with “doing” and failing at “being?” 

We’ve made advent about all the things we need or want to do before Christmas from shopping for presents, to decorating, planning myriads of events, and in the life of the church many meetings about what we plan for in the coming year.

But in all our planning and preparing for activities, we may be failing to actually prepare ourselves for the hope in Jesus Christ that God calls us to. 

Instead of every day being the burden of more busyness, what if during Advent we chose some ways to just BE.

Some ways to do that could be to adopt a practice or practices (not too many!) that help us just to be in God’s presence and in the presence of people we care about. Consider during Advent trying one of the following:

  • Weather allowing, take a walk each day and enjoy the falling leaves
  • Have a cup of coffee with a friend you’ve not seen in a long time
  • Read the birth stories of Jesus from Matthew and/or Luke
  • As part of a daily time with God sit in silence for 5, 10 or 15 minutes and just listen for the still small voice of God.
  • Say “no” to some event or activity that will feel like it will overload your schedule.
  • Try a new/different devotional practice.

In the Advent season we are reminded that we are children of God. We do not have to do more to be God’s children. We do not have to be busier to be God’s children. We just ARE God’s children. In this season of Advent let us find time to just be in the presence of God and know that our God is the way that leads to life!

Anticipating Hope

This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is a time of preparation, hope and anticipation. This first Sunday we will gather in worship to think about what it means for us to hope by anticipating for future God is preparing for us.

The scripture for Sunday is Luke 21:25-36. In this passage of scripture we read about the earth shaking, people fainting in terror and fearing for the future. But in the midst of that fear Jesus tells them not to be afraid but instead to anticipate the work of God. “When these things begin stand up and lift your heads, because your redemption is near.”

We live in a time of history where people have a lot of fears. We have national and political division in the news every day. We hear every day about strife, war and division in other nations. We see division, fighting and struggle in our own United Methodist Church family as we struggle with differences of theology around human sexuality. How can we be a people who love and care for each other even when we disagree with each other?

Just when we might want to despair. Just when we might feel like there is no hope is when the hope and light of Christ breaks in and shines the brightest. Jesus would say to us not to be bowed down by our fears and anxieties. Jesus would tell us, like the lilies of the field, not to be worried about tomorrow. Don’t bow your heads in fear, instead stand up! Stand up! because through the coming of Christ into this world your redemption draws near. The light is coming, it prepares to dawn. And the coming of the dawn, the coming of the Son rise brings us hope and joy!

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.