Happy Epiphany!

Hello Friends,

Happy Epiphany! The Advent and Christmas season is coming to an end. Hope your family holidays were filled with much peace, comfort and joy. The question is “Are you now ready for the New Year of 2017?” One of the first days at the beginning of the New Year we celebrate is called, “Epiphany Sunday.”

Some Epiphany history:

Epiphany, or the 12th day of Christmas, usually falls on January 6 and marks the official end to the festive season for many Christians. The ancient Christian feast day is significant as a celebration of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, as well as a more general celebration of his birth. The six Sundays which follow Epiphany are known as the time of manifestation.

The Twelfth Night (Epiphany) also marks a visit to the baby Jesus by three Kings, or Wise Men. The word ‘Epiphany’ comes from Greek and means “to show”, referring to Jesus’ being revealed to the world. In the West, Christians began celebrating the Epiphany in the 4th century.

According to the Gospel of Matthew, the men found Jesus by following a star across the desert to Bethlehem. The three men – named Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar – followed the star of Bethlehem to meet the baby Jesus. According to Matthew 2:11, they offered symbolic gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The gifts were symbolic of the importance of Jesus’ birth, the gold representing his royal standing; frankincense his divine birth; and myrrh his mortality.

Let’s step into the new year of 2017, like the wise men, “seeking diligently” for more of Jesus, the Christ, in our lives. They were following a star that placed them over the place where Jesus was born. They were bearing gifts.

Maybe Hyde Park Community UMC is that place where we find Jesus born anew each and every Sunday in worship, a study class or a small group. What gifts will you bring to the Lord this year? Will you give more generously of your time, talents, and treasures for His Kingdom? I invite you to make Jesus’ teachings more of a priority in 2017. A great faith journey and wise first-step might be to make a heartfelt “recommitment to Christ” New Year’s resolution.

Happy searching! Happy finding! Happy New Year!

Pastor Dave

Making the Journey

Often in life we find ourselves on a journey not of our own choosing: The unexpected happens, interruptions barge into an all ready packed calendar, plans made with intentionality and care suddenly need to be altered.  The events surrounding the birth of Jesus remind us that we are not alone; Mary and Joseph found themselves on a journey they had not planned.  Likewise, the Wise Men found themselves on a journey, not knowing the outcome, but knowing it was a journey they must make.

Mary’s journey with Jesus took her to mountaintops of joy and valleys of despair. Many times the journey Mary found herself on were not of her own planning, nor were they what she expected, and often did not want to make.  Adam Hamilton in his devotional, The Journey, writes:

“Like Mary, all of us find ourselves forced to take journeys we do not wish to make.  These journeys are not prescribed by God but by life’s circumstances or the will of others.  In the midst of them, we may be disappointed, wonder if we’ve been abandoned by God, or simply feel confused as to why we’ve had to travel such roads.  Perhaps Mary felt some of these same emotions on the journey to Bethlehem.” (p.106)

No matter the journey we find ourselves on, we, like Mary, can embrace God’s presence in the journey.  Like Mary, we embrace our God who delivers, sustains, and empowers, knowing, “God has a way of bringing good from disappointment, suffering and pain.”  Like the Wise Men we can make the journey, and when all is said and done experience “overwhelming joy!”

As we continue the journey to the manger this Advent season, let God direct your path, empower your steps, and lead you to that place of peace; yes, peace even in the midst of chaos!  I look forward to seeing you in Church as we make the journey together!

Advent/Christmas Blessings,

Pastor Doug

Daring to be an Instrument of Peace

He is known as the “Cellist of Sarajevo.”  Vedran Smailovic, born on November 11, 1956, has also been called a hero.  A former cellist in the Sarajevo String Quarter, he made a choice.  He took his cello and played Albonini’s Adagio, a composition which symbolizes hope rising from the ashes.  Samilovic played this powerful piece of music amid the ruins of his beloved city.  He played during funerals even though snipers were a very real threat.

What does it mean to be a presence for peace this season?  Our nation is bitterly divided.  Racial tensions are high.  Economic strain plagues many.  Marriages and families experience added stress.

We are called to be peacemakers, standing for peace wherever we are, pointing people to Christ who is the light of the world and the Prince of Peace. It may be that it is as simple as choosing peace, instead of engaging in an argument.  It may be as simple as deciding it is more important to be kind than to be right.  It may be as simple as choosing to be silent rather than to speak.   

St Francis of Assisi, 1181-1226, reminds us during this holy season what is means to be an instrument of peace.  May this beloved prayer infuse your body, mind, and spirit with Christ’s peace:   

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

Praying for God’s peace to fill you,

Pastor Cathy Johns