An Epiphany Prayer

 

A Prayer of Invocation that begins with a poem by written by Madeleine L’Engle in 1973, entitled “The Risk of Birth.”

Lord God,

“The Risk of Birth” by Madeleine L’Engle

This is no time for a child to be born
With the earth betrayed by war and hate
And a comet slashing the sky to warn
That time runs out and the sun burns late.

That was no time for a child to be born
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome
Honor and truth were trampled by scorn—
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.

When is the time for love to be born?
The inn is full on planet earth,
And by a comet the sky is torn –
Yet Love still takes the risk of birth.

O God, you have invited shepherds and kings – and us – to encounter the infant Jesus here, this morning: an Epiphany we are free to embrace, or deny.

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Sermon: Pursuing the Light

The light of that star reveals the brokenness and darkness that surrounds us and which was always there, but now the veil behind which it was hidden is torn. The new star reveals how inadequate human effort is, and reveals the destructiveness of hubris and denial. But, it also brings the promise of God’s perfect gift, lying in that manger, the promise that new and better things are to come, and indeed are already here, and that God’s will and love for us can never be denied or defeated. But fear Not! For in Jesus the dream becomes reality and the light he brings will never die.

Image-of_Sirius
NASA image of Sirius, the brightest star in our nighttime sky.

As a kid, my two great loves were science and exploration. I would consume the National Geographic the second it arrived in the mail, and my bedroom was festooned with space posters, photos, astronomic charts, and lunar maps. I faithfully read the New York Times Science and Technology section every Sunday afternoon. I so wanted to be an explorer, or maybe a Scientist! In fact, for a long time my ultimate goal was to become an Astronaut, or perhaps an Astronomer!

But, becoming an Astronaut was simply not possible for someone as nearsighted as I am. So much for that dream, things change.

That left Astronomy, which I pursued diligently for a long time. In fact, I audited a college level Astronomy class in 9th grade.

I loved our late night labs in that course, hauling out the telescopes and looking at the moon, planets and stars. Plus, hanging with college kids late at night was – ah – educational. That class was really fun, and cool – not to mention cold, there in Wyoming in the late fall!

What you soon learn when you regularly and carefully observe the celestial sphere is that the Sun, Moon and stars circle overhead, faithfully following their courses year after year. True, the planets wander, but even their wanderings have a regular pattern. And so, particularly for the ancients, nothing about the heavens is random. All the movements they saw were very regular, very repetitive and very predictable. From the point of view of the ancients, the only things that broke the rules were an occasional eclipse, or the rare comet. When such things occurred, their strangeness, unpredictability and frightening appearance were often taken as evidence of turmoil in the heavens: a sign of supernatural displeasure, great catastrophes, and doom.

But then we have the star in this morning’s reading.

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The Star of Change

The Star shining above that stable in the Gospel of Matthew is leading the wise to the Promise of God. It is a light that is a harbinger of the changes to come, but also the promise that God’s light is within those changes, and that God will never forsake us, nor forget us. Do not fear change, for God’s light and grace are in it – always.

star_of_bethlehemSo, it is close to midnight on December 31 here in the Boston area: New Years Eve.  And, what am I doing?  I am sitting in our living room writing my sermon for this coming Sunday while my wife, son (and cat) sleep peacefully in their beds, not far away.

Some things never seem to change – like the never-ending challenge of finding the time to faithfully serve my small but doughty congregation while balancing my call to the ministry with the duties of father and husband; and the demands of the numerous efforts, activities, and causes I’m involved in.  It is quiet here in the darkened house.  Everything seems stable, solid and at peace.

On the other hand, this Sunday is Epiphany Sunday and the star that shines so bright in Matthew chapter two, guiding the Wise ones who come from afar, is all about change – announcing that change is soon to come, and also confirming that those changes have indeed already begun. And with that change comes the realization that the old rules no longer apply; and that we can no longer expect the world to work as we believe it has always done.  That we cannot proceed with business as usual any more.

Change is coming, and change is already here.

Change can be scary, but instead of fighting it, or pretending it isn’t happening, we – as people of faith – are called to acknowledge it, to see God’s purpose flowing in it, and to understand that while dealing with  change is always a challenge, every change carries within it the promise and grace of of God.

I pray that this past year has been a good one for you – yes there have been many changes in all of our lives – good changes, and bad.  I pray that in this coming year you are blessed with the wisdom and strength and resources you need to deal with the new changes and challenges you will face.  And, I also pray that we all stand together, helping each other rather than fighting each other (as we have done so often in recent years) so that the changes we face as a people, and as creatures of God’s Green earth, are confronted and dealt with compassion, with wisdom, and with God’s grace fully active in our every thought and word and deed.

Remember the Star shining above that stable in the Gospel of Matthew, leading the wise to the Promise of God: a light that was a harbinger of the changes to come, but also the promise that God’s light is within those changes, and that God will never forsake us, nor forget us.

And so I wonder as I write this sermon – is the light of that star merely announcing that change is coming; or is it a light – a light of the Divine – that makes it possible for us to see the change that is already here?

Peace be with you all now, and in the days and weeks and months to come.

Have a Blessed and Happy New Year!

Amen.

Copyright (c) 2015, Allen Vander Meulen III, all rights reserved.  I’m happy to share my writings with you, as long as proper credit for my authorship is given. (e.g., via a credit that gives my full name and/or provides a link back to this site – or just email me and ask!)

Sermon: The Lonely Light

…the landscape is not as dark or cold or empty as we thought, because The Light is already here. We carry it with us wherever we go, and so it continues to beckon to all those who are wandering in the darkness – a beacon guiding the nations to a place of light and warmth, and the promise of an Epiphany of their own.

“The Magi” by Chinese Artist He Qi

When I was 12, my family moved from Vermont to Wyoming.   As you might guess, it was quite a transition. Here I was: a New England boy used to rolling hills, abundant trees, air that was humid, and lots of little towns sharing borders with other little towns; but we were relocating to a sparsely inhabited desert plateau a mile and a half above sea level and surrounded by mountains – real mountains – not the green bumps we have here in New England.

I remember as we drove out, constantly quizzing my Father:

So Dad, we’re moving to Laramie, right?

   Yes, son.

So, what other towns are around it?

   There aren’t any. Rawlins is the next town up on the highway, on the other side of the Snowy Range, about 100 miles away.

Huh, but … what’s in between? There must be towns in between!

   Nope, none.

Really? Well, but what’s in-between Rawlins and Laramie, then?  There’s got to be something!

…The fact that every acre of land in the country wasn’t within some town’s boundaries, as is true here in New England, just did not compute for me. There was no such thing in my experience as a town that bordered on … nothing!

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