From the Pastor’s Desk – January 2016
WE LOVE THE CHRISTMAS SEASON! We really do, despite the ways we’re jostled in Black Friday crowds and traffic, and almost swindled by some Christmas “bargains”. We find refuge in Hallmark Channel holiday movies and TV specials; and some of us watch our favorite DVD’s and, yes, VHS tapes of olde. But the season of Advent still goes a-begging as the fore-season of the real Christmas. We light an Advent Wreath; we try to learn the few ‘Advent hymns’; but aren’t we really just humoring the preacher? Christmas began in July, this year.
Unfortunately, post-Christmastime is quickly emptied out of all the signs and symbols of pre-December 25—by December 26 and 27. Among United Methodists, the Christmas sanctuary that was weeks in the making is now an empty stage… except for a few leftover poinsettia and Christmas Eve bulletins strewn about. The “Twelve Days of Christmas” is just a chorus from the now-forgotten first act.
There is, yet, one more ‘season’ of Christmastime: Epiphanytide, which begins on Christmas (December 25) and climaxes on Candlemas (February 2).
Like the pre-Christmas season of Advent, Epiphanytide is a 40-day cycle. It is a majestic series of events beginning with:
∙ the birth of the Christ Child,
∙ marks his revelation to the nations (in the majii from the East),
∙ celebrates Jesus’ baptism in the Holy Spirit at the Jordan,
∙ recalls the beginning of his ministry at his hometown synagogue,
∙ and culminates in an infancy remembrance of his presentation in the Temple as a last, longing, looking-back to the wonder and promise of the natal prophecies of Isaiah.
All this as the harsh realities of life and death set in, and the shadows of Lent lean in from the horizon.
Winter light is a suggestive symbol, suggested by the lights in winter-night sky: the Natal Star (Christmas, December 25), the Magic Star (Epiphany, January 6) and the Day Star (Candlemas, February 2). The light of the four blue candles of our Advent wreath will be replaced with four white candles, a new lighted each week from the Christ Candle—Lord’s Baptism to Candlemas—symbolizing to us and calling us through the Holy Spirit’s illumination and revelation…to recognize the Christ among us in unique ways as he begins his earthly life and ministry.