My friend Stephanie knows about things I don’t. She flies airplanes for a living. She embodies courage and an openness to change that is far beyond me. Today, she is flexing her theological blogging muscle and shares her thoughts below. She knows a thing or two about what she writes – and a whole lot more.
Meet my friend Stephanie Williams and see what God has revealed to her this season…
Matthew 2:1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11-12
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem village, Judah territory— this was during Herod’s kingship—a band of scholars arrived in Jerusalem from the East. They asked around, “Where can we find and pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews? We observed a star in the eastern sky that signaled his birth. We’re on pilgrimage to worship him.”
When word of their inquiry got to Herod, he was terrified—and not Herod alone, but most of Jerusalem as well. Herod lost no time. He gathered all the high priests and religion scholars in the city together and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”
They told him, “Bethlehem, Judah territory. The prophet Micah wrote it plainly: It’s you, Bethlehem, in Judah’s land, no longer bringing up the rear. From you will come the leader who will shepherd-rule my people, my Israel.”
Herod then arranged a secret meeting with the scholars from the East.
Pretending to be as devout as they were, he got them to tell him exactly when the birth-announcement star appeared. Then he told them the prophecy about Bethlehem, and said, “Go find this child. Leave no stone unturned. As soon as you find him, send word and I’ll join you at once in your worship.”
Instructed by the king, they set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time!
They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh.
In a dream, they were warned not to report back to Herod. So they worked out another route, left the territory without being seen, and returned to their own country.
My Epiphany This Christmas Season
Epiphany is a word familiar to most people—it is a revelation of truth or a discovery. It is also the end of the 12 days of Christmas—a little-known fact to some. Even less-known is the fact that the celebration of Epiphany in Christian culture is the celebration of Christ being revealed to the Gentiles as the Savior. The scholars/wise men/magi brought gifts for a king, priest and a prophet— Gold, frankincense and myrrh. How on Earth did they get to Bethlehem in the first place? After all, weren’t they Persian scholars who were looking to see a prophecy fulfilled? The Scripture states that the star in the eastern skies signaled His birth. While I certainly accept that explanation from Scripture, I also have never thought very much about how that idea fits into today’s society and its norms.
My family LOVES gadgets, myself included. My kids have iPhones. My husband and I have iPhones. I am typing this blog on our new iMac. We have Bluetooth headphones and speakers, XBoxs and an Apple TV. All of those things I just mentioned are fairly common in the digital age we live in. My “epiphany” came when I was discussing a potential gift with my husband—an exercise watch that can show thousands of bits of golf course information. My husband was appreciative of my idea, but reminded me of the fact that he already has a laser range-finder to make sure he knows his exact distance to the pin each and every hole. That’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks—we are in LOVE with certainty!
Certainty is definitely not the word that comes to mind when I think about the magi and their trek across the desert. I am reminded of the words to the “We Three Kings” hymn many of us have sung since we were children.
“We three kings of orient are, bearing gifts we traverse afar…star of wonder, star of light, star with royal beauty bright.
Westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light.”
That level of precision is far from a laser range-finder or GPS device that shows exact azimuth and distance to Jesus’ manger. These three kings set out on quite a journey across a vast desert to see a prophecy fulfilled. They had no guarantees. They had no certainty on whether or not they would be successful. They simply believed and followed the star.
The digital age has led us all down a path that discourages hope and wonder—both are essential elements of faith. Faith is “believing without seeing” and its antithesis, certainty, is “knowing something is an assured fact.” Now, that is interesting but what’s the takeaway? What lesson from God’s Word do I walk away with? After all, I am a believer. I have faith.
Well…..I can say with certainty that I believe in God and His Son Jesus Christ—and I can say it and mean it on faith alone. But, what I think we should think about is how we live that faith narrative on a daily basis. In my case, one word summarizes what often keeps me from living faithfully—risk. Risk is elevated when an element of uncertainty exists. For example, take a situation many of us see each and every day we venture out into town—homelessness. When we come across that homeless individual, we have several options:
1) ignore him or her,
2) give money,
3) give food/drink,
4) personally engage with them.
Option 1 has little to no personal risk for us; the homeless person bears all the negative impact of that option.
Options 2 & 3 have little personal risk besides taking resources away from our own bank accounts. Obviously, that is more impactful to some more than others.
I submit that Option 4 is the riskiest of all for human beings—simply because we have no idea what will happen when we make ourselves vulnerable to a stranger. But, like the magi were on a journey to find and worship Jesus Christ, I should be on a lifelong journey to reflect His love to others simply out of gratitude for His sacrifice for my transgressions.
In my fictitious encounter with a homeless person (who is also a child of God), I am unsure of how they will react. I am unsure if they will even talk to me. I am unsure what they might ask of me. In the same regard, I am unsure of what I am able to do to help them at that particular moment. I am unsure about a lot of things—I must draw my courage from my faith in God. Like the magi followed the star that rose in the East and ended up over Bethlehem, I must follow where God leads. Like the magi, I need to do this without the whole picture completed. I need to take risk.
Hopefully, we will all have the same Epiphany—to bravely move ahead with Jesus’ love even when it is difficult, uncertain or risky. Sounds like a good New Year’s Resolution to me!