We apologize for the missed link. If you're looking for Lisl's blog this week, it's here: http://www.redemptionchurch.ca/blog/2017/1/12/ordinary-time-from-epiphany-to-lent
Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes --
Some have got broken -- and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week --
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted -- quite unsuccessfully --
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers.
… for the time being, here we all are,
Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid's geometry
And Newton's mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.
It seems to have shrunk during the holidays. The streets
Are much narrower than we remembered; we had forgotten
The office was as depressing as this. To those who have seen
The Child, however dimly, however incredulously,
The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all.
-W.H. Auden, from For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio
This poem, which I first heard a few years ago in an Epiphany sermon, captures so well the mood of early January. After a December full of celebrations, lights, carols, gifts, and rest with friends and family, a January of work, bank statements, diets, and routine may come as a relief, but may also feel like a major let down. Compared to the miracle of the Incarnation we prepared for during Advent and celebrated at Christmas, ordinary life can seem meaningless, un-spiritual, indeed “the most trying time of all.”
At Epiphany, we remember the Magi who came from the East to worship Jesus. What we know about them is minimal: they appear and disappear in the course of Matthew 2:1-12. They were Gentiles, likely Zoroastrian astrologers. Though they knew nothing of Israel’s God, they were compelled by a star to travel a great distance, bearing valuable gifts for the king of the Jews whose reign and message of salvation would extend also to the Gentiles. I wonder what it was like for them, having seen and worshipped the Christ child, to slip secretly away to their home country, Herod’s soldiers hot on their tails. When the fatigue of their journey, the adrenaline of a narrow escape, and the joy of beholding God himself wore off, perhaps they felt let down like we do after Christmas. Perhaps their stargazing felt purposeless, their remaining days bleak and empty.
In the face of these feelings, I find the prophesy of Isaiah 60:5-6 quite encouraging. He speaks of the eschaton when Gentiles from every nation will stream into Jerusalem, the city of God, bringing the most valuable treasures of their culture with them:
“Then you will look and be radiant,
your heart will throb and swell with joy;
the wealth on the seas will be brought to you,
to you the riches of the nations will come.
Herds of camels will cover your land,
young camels of Midian and Ephah.
And all from Sheba will come,
bearing gold and incense
and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.”
As we try to negotiate life in early January, we may be tempted to see our material life as the enemy of true spirituality. We may imagine that if it weren’t for the tasks of ordinary life we could hold on more tightly to the hope and joy we felt at Christmas, that vision of the Child, even if it was dim or incredulous.
To be sure, we need to take seriously Jesus’ cautions against being overly identified or concerned with this world. However, Isaiah indicates that the pattern of the Magi has eschatological significance. Just as they responded to the call of the star and laid their riches at the feet of Jesus, so all the nations will have the opportunity to respond to the light of God’s glory and offer their riches for inclusion in the New Jerusalem. What we (and our non-Christian friends, neighbours, and coworkers) design, build, cook, write, engineer, compose, and earn in this world has the potential to be included in the world that is to come, if we are willing to lay it at the feet of the King in worship.
The miracle of Christmas is that the divine has come down to earth. The miracle of Epiphany is that the earthly has the potential to be divine.
If this is true, how will we live? Will we see the work of our hands and the money we earn, as a distraction from work of the Kingdom or as a potential contribution? Will we see it as the end of what is passing away or the beginning of what is eternal? Will we look at secular culture only to find what is depraved and corrupting that we may condemn it, or what is good, beautiful and true, that we might celebrate it?
In this season of Epiphany, may we, like the Magi bring our best work as a gift to the King.