Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Epiphany and G.K. Chesterton

   The following article will be published in the February newsletter at Redeemer, Huntington Beach. A blessed Epiphany to you all.      

   If Christmas is the great “Gloria” celebration of unrestrained joy at the news of God’s incarnation in human flesh, then Epiphany is the continued celebration of Christ’s work in human flesh. That’s why Epiphany is not the end of Christmas, but the great rushing river, pushing us ever to run its course with Christ. It all ends in a cascade of blood and water flowing from Jesus’ pierced side, but it flows ever into the font and the chalice – a pool of forgiveness. An oasis of grace. You see in the Church, Christmas and Epiphany never really end. Wherever Christ’s body and blood are received there is Christmas for you. For this is what we discover right at the outset of Epiphany – that our course is to be run with Christ, or rather, that his course is to be run with and for us. That’s why he is baptized in the Jordan River: Jesus is the great stand-in, the substitute for all men dead in Adam.

            That is the joy of Christmas and Epiphany: Christ comes in human flesh to redeem human flesh. Through his becoming man all men are saved. That’s why the shepherds genuflected in worship before this cradled King. The magi, whom we hear about at the inauguration of the Epiphany season, respond thus as well: they bring gifts before the Giver of all gifts as they kneel before their Lord. Christmas and Epiphany are no different for us. The Little Child of Bethlehem calls us to become like little children in him; that’s his gift to you. He became a child like you are so that you can become a child of God too. Unlike most children, Jesus loves to share everything that is his. During Christmas and Epiphany that’s what he comes to do: share in your humanity. Share in your suffering. And finally share in your sin and death, to take it all into himself in order to give you all that belongs to him: peace, joy, patience, righteousness, mercy, love, forgiveness – unlike those three gifts from the magi, Christ’s gifts are too many to number.
            During this season of Epiphany, continue to ponder, rejoice and receive the mystery of Christ, the Word made flesh, as he continues to “Epiphany” (reveal, manifest, appear) among us. You don’t need a star or angels singing “Glory to God in the highest” because you have a better sign: God’s Word, the waters of Baptism, Jesus’ body and blood. You even get to sing the song of the angels in the Divine Service: “Glory to God in the highest and peace to his people on earth.”  This same child-like faith in the Child born to save is one of the many Epiphany themes, the renown Christian author and thinker, G.K. Chesterton, writes about in his Epiphany poem. Enjoy. And a blessed Epiphany season to you all!

The Wise Men
By G.K. Chesterton

Step softly, under snow or rain,
To find the place where men can pray;
The way is all so very plain
That we may lose the way.
Oh, we have learnt to peer and pore
On tortured puzzles from our youth,
We know all labyrinthine lore,
We are the three wise men of yore,
And we know all things but the truth.
We have gone round and round the hill
And lost the wood among the trees,
And learnt long names for every ill,
And served the mad gods, naming still
The furies the Eumenides.
The gods of violence took the veil
Of vision and philosophy,
The Serpent that brought all men bale,
He bites his own accursed tail,
And calls himself Eternity.
Go humbly…it has hailed and snowed…
With voices low and lanterns lit;
So very simple is the road,
That we may stray from it.
The world grows terrible and white,
And blinding white the breaking day;
We walk bewildered in the light,
For something is too large for sight,
And something much too plain to say.
The Child that was ere worlds begun
(…We need but walk a little way,
We need but see a latch undone…)
The Child that played with moon and sun
Is playing with a little hay.
The house from which the heavens are fed,
The old strange house that is our own,
Where trick of words are never said,
And Mercy is as plain as bread,
And Honour is as hard as stone.
Go humbly, humble are the skies,
And low and large and fierce the Star;
So very near the Manger lies
That we may travel far.
Hark! Laughter like a lion wakes
To roar to the resounding plain.
And the whole heaven shouts and shakes,
For God Himself is born again,
And we are little children walking
Through the snow and rain.

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