Have An Epiphany (A Light Bulb Moment)

 

epiphany

Image Source: thegodguy.files.wordpress

You and I can do Christmas and completely miss the wonder and epiphany of it all!

Today is the Day of Epiphany (January 6).

What’s an epiphany?

• a moment of sudden revelation or insight. (A light bulb moment!)

• an appearance of a divine or supernatural being.

We just celebrated Christmas, now it’s a New Year… and Jan 6th marks an event that happened thousands of years ago where philosophers travelled a long journey following a star that would lead them to Divine truth. To the One who bears the name, which I have been pondering this season, Immanuel. To understand the meaning of the name in itself is an Epiphany…

It means, “God With Us”!

 

guwg-epiphany

Image source: getupwithgod.com

Background: The Day of Epiphany remembers the wise men’s visit to baby Jesus and his baptism.

Epiphany is also one of the oldest Christian feasts. It was celebrated since the end of the second century, before the Christmas holiday was established.

It commemorates the first two occasions on which Jesus’ divinity was manifested: when the magi visited infant Jesus in Bethlehem, and when John the Baptist baptized him in the River Jordan. The Roman Catholic and Protestant churches emphasize the visit of the magi when they celebrate the Epiphany. The Eastern Orthodox churches focus on Jesus’ baptism.

The point is… God is with us. 🙂

Recap of the story…

In 700 BC the Prophet Isaiah wrote… (Isaiah 7:14)

14 But the Lord will still show you this sign:

The young woman is pregnant[a]
    and will give birth to a son.
    She will name him Immanuel.[b]

 

Immanuel means “God with us!”

Read the passages below on Biblegateway.com and ask yourself,

“How is God with us today?”

“What does it mean if God is with me right now?”

And…“How does that make a difference in my personal life?”

Luke 2:1-20 – The first Christmas

Matthew 1:22-23 – 22 All this happened to make clear the full meaning of what the Lord said through the prophet:23 “The virgin will be pregnant and will give birth to a son. They will name him Immanuel.”[a](Immanuel means “God with us.”)

John 1:1,14 – God, the Word became flesh – Before the world began, the Word[a] was there. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.

But, how is God with us today?…

John 14:6, 16-19 – The Holy Spirit – He is that part of God that is with us here and now if we have welcomed Jesus to indeed be our Lord and Saviour.

We all have been given this gift, but some of us have left the gift under the Christmas tree and have not yet opened it. Or we have opened it, but we go on living as if we have never opened the greatest gift…

1 John 4:9-11, 19;5:4,12 – The Cross, truly the first Christmas tree. The Light of the world shone on it.

God is with us. He came as a baby boy – to hold him, cherish him, delight in him, he came humbly for you to know relationship with God.

Have you held a baby recently?

I love that God comes as a baby – a baby needs to be held with arms wide open, to be loved with a heart wide open. That is our invitation. God invites us to open our arms and our hearts to receive Him – to be God with us.

I also love that God chose to come into a messy stable with stinky animals and animal dung. You and I, will have yucky stuff happen to us in this life, but He came to be with us in it. He does not refuse to come to us in our yuck. He is there with us and He cleans it up for us.

There is nothing we can do to make our way to God, so at Christmas, God made His way to us. New life will not be found in anything we might do. New life is found only in what Jesus has done for you. Christmas is good news – God is with YOU.

This is a New Year. Are you open to inviting the Creator of the Universe who gave His son for your freedom, to be with you in every situation this upcoming year? The question isn’t: is God with you? But are you with Him??

Living for ourselves makes us overly concerned and consumed with our appearance, our success, how many likes or loves we get on FB or instagram… But, no matter the success …or likes we get, …we can still constantly feel inadequate, insecure, lonely…

But, living with God at the centre of our lives, holding Him in our hearts – makes us full! Our cup overflows! Our joy, our love, our courage overflows – we are contagious! People are drawn to us – when we are not about ourselves, but about someOne who is greater than us!

We will have people in our lives who will like us because of what we can do for them. Then, there are those who love us, because God loves us. Those people are contagious and deeply attractive, and when they dance, or even smile… it’s as if God Himself is smiling at you. I pray that you can be like that, that when people see you or hear your name, they feel the love of God Himself through you.

You and I all long for something greater, and yet we are far too easily pleased with things that do not last.

 “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink, and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” ― (C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses).

I pray with deepest emotion that you can be apart of making changes to focus our young women and men to live not as sex objects but as artists with a greater purpose and a greater message.

The lie from the beginning is that YOU are God, or things are God, or other people are God. (Gen 3:15)

But, Immanuel, God with us (the Bread of Life, who comes to us to feed us) comes to deliver us from this lie. He defeated death to rescue us and restore us. He answers the cry of our hearts – “O Come, O Come Immanuel…” which is literally… “O Come, O Come… God, Be with us!” One of the oldest Christmas Carols that is sung today was translated in the 1800’s, but written earlier!

Immanuel, God with us, came humbly as a baby but sits powerfully on His throne and offers you and I life and freedom, and His continual presence!

Imagine if you were invited to (…dance, sing, act, create… whatever you love to do) for royalty! Well, you have been! Every thing you do, you have been invited to do for someone greater! For our Creator, the King of kings, for Jesus, our Saviour, for Immanual, God with us! Dancers who dance for God in worship, dance with a greater joy and passion!

Know that He is here with you, that He loves you and smiles on you.

Picture yourself (…dancing, singing, acting, creating… doing what you love to do) and He is beaming proudly: “That’s my girl. That’s my boy! I made her or him to dance so beautifully. She/he has my great purpose. I just ask that she/he trusts me! I want to surprise her/him!”

You and I can do Christmas and completely miss the wonder and epiphany of it all!

Where do you need God right now? Where do you need to invite Him to do His mighty work? Do you have fear, shame, guilt, loneliness, grief…or even happiness, yet it is so temporary?

In this moment, let your heart be filled with God who has come and is coming again! May you not worship yourself, or others, or things, but worship Him alone, and you’ll notice how this shrinks your worries and your fears! The joy of the Lord is your strength.

A Blessing over you…

The Lord is your Shepherd. He gives you everything you need.

He leads you to rest in fields of green grass.

He leads you to streams of peaceful water to refresh your life.

He is true to His name, Jesus (Saviour), Immanuel (God with us)

He leads you along the right paths.

You may walk through valleys as dark as death, but you don’t need to be afraid.

God is with you. His shepherd’s rod makes you feel safe.

He treats you to a feast, while your enemies watch.

He honours you as His guest, and He fills His cup until it overflows.

His kindness and love will always be with you each day of your life,

and You may live forever in God’s house, in His presence.

 

I’d like to play for you…

One of the oldest Christmas Carols that is sung today, written in the 1800’s: O Come, O Come Immanuel… (God with us).

And as it is played, let His presence and love overwhelm you. Open your heart to Him…

It is written in old language, so let me share with you what it is literally saying in a prayer I once prayed over my church family a few years ago…

Lord of Might, you gave us your perfect law from Mt Sinai to protect us from self-harm. You raised the bar high for us because of your great love, and then you came as our rescuer from the family tree of Jesse, defeating the enemy, bringing victory over the grave.

Jesus, you are our Dayspring, our dawn, our sunrise. Jesus you send away the clouds of the night and send away the dark shadows of death to retreat. Jesus, you make a way wide open to heaven safely and you shut the road to misery.

O Lord Jesus, God with us, you came to rescue your people out of slavery, out of lonely bondage. And you are here with us now. You have appeared. Allow us to see you in our life today, to see your nudgings, your promptings – through people, events and your Word. Prevent us from overlooking your Godly authority in all things and help us to know deeply that we are rescued and not alone. We receive your love through the Christmas miracle. We receive your love this day. Open our hearts to worship you, Lord Jesus, for you came for each of here today. Amen.

(Take a listen…)

Closing Prayer:

Surprise us Lord, with your presence here today. Pour your Spirit on each reader to come to understand their incredible value – that you love each one and enjoy each one – so much that you broke into history 2015 years ago to be the Saviour of the world. You moved into our broken neighbourhood that first Christmas and you paid the price that first Easter, so that we can be rescued. You smile when we live for you! You delight in us! When we dance or sing or play or work, may we do it with passion for you! And with that passion, we can show your light and your rescuing love to the world around us. Thank you for your passion for us, God with us, so that we can (…dance, sing, act, create…) and live in passion for far greater things than what we see around us. We dance and live for you King of Kings.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Songs to further bless you as you reflect that God is with you…

What Are You Expecting This Christmas? (4th Sunday in Advent)

This morning my family and I shared an Advent reflection I wrote one day as I pondered the expectation of the coming Messiah…

Expectation

Reader 1: We often look to Christmas with expectation: we may expect presents, or gatherings with family and friends, or gaining a few pounds, or laughter, we may even expect grief or sadness even in the midst of joy and celebration.

Reader 2: We live in a world where our expectations are built up all the time – the décor we should have, the presents we should give or receive, the food or drink we should enjoy, the good times we should have with family and friends. And when we don’t get those things, it disappoints or hurts us. We are reminded that all those things, even as good as they can be, come to an end. And our hearts long for something more!

Reader 1: There are people in many parts of the world who have learned to expect nothing – not even food, not shelter. Sometimes not even love.

What are you expecting this Christmas?

Reader 2: Put all your expectations aside and simply trust in this… Christ is coming! We light another candle today in expectation of the coming of Christ, who brings joy and justice to you and all people, everywhere.

Lighting of the candle

Reader 1: God loves you …enough to send His only Son …What would you expect from a God who desperately loves you?

Reader 2:
“In those days…I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” Jeremiah 33:15

“So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!” Luke 21:28

Reader 1: Prayer: Lord of all, remind us of what is truly important. Come to us and bring the joy of restored relationship with you and justice that few of us may expect, but that we all need. In Jesus’ loving Name, Amen.

 

A Christmas… Not Alone

I spent most of Christmas Day alone, but I am reflecting how I didn’t feel all alone. I truly had peace despite… To start the story, I caught the flu bug the day before Christmas and I had to completely miss my reading part in the Christmas Eve program – a program I was looking forward to sharing with friends and family. That was at first disappointing but I would’ve been coughing, sneezing and blowing my nose on stage and so I spent the evening quietly at home with my hubby and two boys. The next Christmas morning, I was… still sick. I took cold meds and threw in a throat lozenge, cozied up in my terrycloth robe and warm jammies and plunked myself in my living room chair with the family. Yes, I wonderfully started the day with my family, with the reading of Christmas story by my hubby, with opening the stockings and a few gifts. And then, later they headed off to a family gathering all afternoon and evening and I bunkered down with tissues, cough drops and mint tea.

All of a sudden, the house was quiet. I was alone. The snow was beautifully coming down – a White Christmas. And here I was alone with two sleepy cats. Then I realized, I was… at peace. In years past, in previous days of hurt and betrayal, I would’ve deeply struggled with a Christmas Day all alone. Now, I smiled and thanked God for His peaceful presence. He was with me.

Then today, I read this exceprt from Ann Voskamp emailed to me from a friend. I am afraid I cannot find it on her website to properly source it, so if any of you readers can find it, post the link on the comments below. It’s perfect…

Here it is… We are not alone!!

Our God who breathes stars, He breathed Bethlehem’s Star, then took on lungs and breathed in stable air. Our God who formed and delivered the heavens, He waited patient like an embryo in a womb and delivered Himself to free all humanity. Our God who cradles whole galaxies in the palm of His hand, whom highest heavens cannot contain, He folds Himself into our skin and He curls His newborn fist in the cradle of a barn feed trough — and we are saved from ourselves. We are saved from our hopelessness — because God came with infant fists and opened wide His hand to take the nail sharp edge of our sins. We are saved from our pain — because God pierced the dark and came to the pinpoint of us in the universe and He took the nails.We are saved from our loneliness — because God is love that can’t stand to leave us by ourselves, to ourselves. The entire cosmos sings it on Christmas Eve: We are not alone. We are a pinpoint in the universe that is now nailed to eternity because of the wood of a manger, of a Tree, of a crowning wreath of thorns.  Out of the dark, out of the black  . . . and right into the the land of the shadow of death, a great Light has dawned, and God comes and God is with us, Emmanuel… We are not alone. God can’t miss this pale blue dot – earth, and God can’t leave you in your pain, and God can’t leave you by yourself so the King comes, God comes — Love come down. And all the world this night, it aches and it hurts and it huddles and it groans and it glows a wonder in a black that isn’t that black after all — God says,“I am here and you are not alone.” God’s with us!  ~ Ann Voskamp

His Birthday on a Sunday!

This year we will recognize the birth of Jesus on a Sunday. How wonderful it is that this year, the day we observe the birth of Jesus falls on a weekly day of worship! It’s right where it should be! May our hearts be focused on Him, not even on our family or our traditions, but on Him.

May we gather together in worship this Sunday (in our homes, in our communities), absolutely excited for what God has done for you and me.

The Son of a Carpenter Who Builds and Restores

“The carpenter’s Son will take the nail and a tree made into a cross, and He will rebuild us and restore us and all we who are broken down will find shelter in grace and make the heart of God home. No wonder this time of year we haul trees into our homes. Lord God, restore the broken places in our homes today, in our country and this world. Build us strong in You.” – Ann Voskamp

Source: “A Jesus Advent Calendar” – Jesse Tree Journey, www.aholyexperience.com