I always find this time of year fascinating, after we’ve gorged ourselves on Christmas cookies and overspent on gifts and we’re feeling a little bit gluttonous and a smidgen bad about the time with family – which we so look forward to and then it rarely meets expectations. The time after, when maybe we’re slightly regretful for who we didn’t get to see and what we never should have spent what we wish we didn’t say. The gray, damp January and February slush fills our margins in and we’re sweeping dead pine needles from under the couch and thinking we’d really like a fresh start.
Perfect time for the American holiday season of Resolution.
Beginning January 1, (or a little before for those who like to plan ahead), our Season of Solutions kicks in full force. Every diet pill, nicotine patch, organizing gizmo, life coach, heath club, lean meal, self-help book and storage container is on sale. Right. Now. And for the next few weeks, you’re allowed to tell people how fat you’ve gotten, how depressed you feel, how disorganized you are and what a terrible communication patterns you’ve fallen into with your partner, because this is the season to fix it!
Baby Jesus came to earth and now we get one more go at changing all the rotten things about us. One more opportunity to fix all the ugly and dark parts of ourselves while we have the motivation. Quick, before we pitter out a few weeks from now and give up, and slide back into comfortable disregard until next year’s Resolution Season.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
The truth is, underneath the gaudy and obnoxious discarded garland and adopted resolve, there is something quite shocking and lovely about what happens after Christmas. If we’ve let ourselves linger in Advent’s darkness as we await the light of the world, then we might notice that Christmas says something has changed forever, and can never go back. God has come. To share life with us. All of it. Forever. And just in case the baby in the manger and the shepherds and the secret arrival doesn’t sink in, we’ve got Epiphany.
Epiphany celebrates the Magi, the foreigners from the East traveling for months on end, on a distant promise and a light in the sky, to find the Creator of the world on the lap of a peasant woman. And the light of the world is no longer for those who waited, for those who knew it was coming, or those who were there when it came; it’s for everyone, all of us. The light shines in the darkness. It spreads out and wraps its arms around those of every tribe and nation, every belief and persuasion, every political party, religion, gender, language, socio-economic status, educational level, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ability, criminal record, age, temperament, credit score …you get the picture. The world has changed. God has come. There is no going back.
Our tired and plastic smile season of Resolution says, Its up to you to fix what’s broken about yourself. Take control! Make it better! Resolutions are all about us and our actions, what we are going to do or stop doing. Our efforts and choices determine their success or failure.
But Epiphany happens to us. It inspires us. And it calls forth change. It opens to us a world of possibility. Profound meaning and surprising actions come out of epiphany because we are awakened. We are summoned deep within ourselves by something greater than ourselves.
Resolution begins with our fears and our failures. It works to try to prevent pain and repair deficits.
But Epiphany comes out of nowhere. It brings possibilities and surprises. It calls out of us potential we may not have known we had and involves us in great things. It lights a flame inside us and spreads to those around us. When we open ourselves up to epiphany we open ourselves to be transformed.
Epiphany invites us into the unsettled, the mystery. It says, Lift your eyes from yourselves, your brokenness and faults and look to God. God is up to something. It’s irreversible. It’s in the world. The darkness cannot overcome it. It’s calling you. You are part of this Story.
Have you made resolutions? Nothing wrong with that. They’re often helpful. I make them myself. But this year I want to invite you beyond Resolution. I want to invite you into Epiphany.
Instead of merely finding what’s wrong with you and resolving to fix it, I want to invite you to notice what God might be up to in your life. Who are you? What defines you? How do you bring value to the world? Because you do. Uniquely. You participate. What do you do that makes you feel alive and filled with joy? What might God be summoning within you?
What if in 2011 we committed to live in the mystery a little more? What if we relaxed our grip and lifted our gaze, and allowed ourselves to be a bit more open to God’s activity in our lives? What if we sought to discover more ways we are connected to God, to others, to the Story beyond ourselves? What if we even dared to expect Epiphany?
In a tired world of recycled Resolution, we need Epiphany.
May Epiphany seize us.
May we dwell in the mystery that gives us boldness and confidence to live into who God created and called us to be. May God’s light fill our vision.
Like the Magi of long ago, and every friend and stranger who has walked the earth since, whether they knew it or not,
You are now a sharer in the irreversible promise of Christ.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.