Monday is Epiphany Sunday. Many Christians observe Epiphany, the visit of the magi to Jesus Christ. As I consider the day, I think about gifts, the gifts the magi brought to the Christ Child and also the gift of the Child himself. Jesus is a gift who was given, not only to the Jews who expected the Messiah, but also to the Gentiles (as shown by the magi’s visit). What are the gifts we are offering the world? How are we sharing the gift of Christ?
1. Light. For most of us in North America, we just experienced the longest night of the year and many of us long for more physical daylight, as well as the light of Christ in our dark and broken world. Yet, on the other side of the world, the light of more than 100 wildfires pierces the darkness of the Australian night. According to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, 2019 was Australia’s hottest year on record and January through November the second-driest period on record since 1902. How do daylight and darkness as well as firelight encourage us to consider God’s creation and how we can be agents of reconciliation?
2. Joy. I found a little ornament in my stocking this year that read “Joy.” My interpretation of the story shared over Christmas breakfast was that God gives joy. Joy is a gift to us each and every day—if we will only reach out and claim it. We can’t wait for everything in life to be perfect or easy (it never will be) to experience joy. Joy is offered to us even when life feels anything but joyful. Where can we find the spark of joy dancing before us? What does it mean to reach out and embrace it?
3. Presence. God came to Earth in the form of a tiny baby. An infant depends on others for their survival; he or she must be with others in order to survive. There are many in our communities and in our homes who are in need of others. Who around you is alone during dark evenings? Is alone in struggling with illness (physical or mental), parenting, aging or financial challenges? Who might need your presence and the reminder of God’s presence through your care and concern for them?
4. Growth. Children are constantly growing and changing. The babe in the manger grew into a teacher, preacher, healer and savior. Our own children outgrow swaddles and shoes, temper tantrums and Matchbox cars. As we delight in the growth of children in our homes or congregations, so too does God delight in our growth. In the midst of New Year’s resolutions, what goals for growth might you identify when it comes to your relationship with God? To attend worship more regularly? To join a Bible study? To form a small group for study and accountability? To find a spiritual director? To read a book on discipleship, Christian parenting or the Bible? Or simply to increase the time you spend in prayer or other spiritual practices?
5. Hope. We live in a dark world. In the long dark days of winter it can be easy to lose sight of God’s love shinning in our world. When we read the top headlines about New Year’s Eve murders (as in my hometown), and military strikes overseas, we are reminded of the violence that surrounds us and the hopelessness many feel in the face of economic conditions, physical limitations and the realities of living in a broken world. How are we offering those in our congregations, our neighbors our loved ones hope for a future that one day all things will be made new?
Jennie Wintermote is a full-time mother and part-time librarian for the Western District Conference Resource Library in North Newton, Kansas. She is a member of First Mennonite Church in Newton, Kansas.