Little Christmas, LIttle Epiphanies
Genesis 32:22-30 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Jacob Wrestles at Peniel
22 The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. 24 Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” 27 So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then the man[a] said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel,[b] for you have striven with God and with humans,[c] and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel,[d] saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.”
saiah 43:14-21 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
14 Thus says the Lord,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
For your sake I will send to Babylon
and break down all the bars,
and the shouting of the Chaldeans will be turned to lamentation.[a]
15 I am the Lord, your Holy One,
the Creator of Israel, your King.
16 Thus says the Lord,
who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters,
17 who brings out chariot and horse,
army and warrior;
they lie down, they cannot rise,
they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:
18 Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
19 I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
20 The wild animals will honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches;
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
21 the people whom I formed for myself
so that they might declare my praise.
Little Christmas, Little Epiphanies” January 6th, 2019 at Harbor Church
Everyone knows the song The Twelve Days of Christmas, …”12 Lords-a-Leaping, Five Gold Rings and a Partridge in a Pear Tree”, right? Many use it as a countdown to Christmas day, but historically it is the period leading to a second Christmas celebration which occurs on January 6th.. It’s Known by many names, including Little Christmas or the 12th Day of Christmas, the Epiphany, Three Kings’ Day, January 6th was first celebrated as a feast day in the 4th century to commemorate Jesus’ introduction in human form. In Spain and Latin America, the day January 6th is known as El Dìa de los Reyes. Children leave out their shoes the night before, much like stockings are left out on Christmas Eve. And Many countries, including Ireland, honor this original date by celebrating Little Christmas, known in Irish as Nollaig Bheag, on the 6th. The Irish also refer to the day as Women’s Christmas, a time when men traditionally take over the household duties, giving their wives a ‘day off’. (Guys, are you taking notes, yet?)!
In some traditions, the yule log is burned for all twelve nights following Christmas Eve, and then, on the 6th, the Christmas tree and other decorations are taken down. In fact, it is considered bad luck to leave up the tree past the Twelfth Day. So today is the day to put it away, and do the final wrap up of Christmastime.
So Christmas is a season that concludes today with Epiphany Sunday. Today, We remember the story of the Christ Child being revealed to the Wise Men, or Magi, as the Son of God, a moment that transformed them. Their response was to bow down and worship God, come to them in human form. But this big first epiphany represented more than just a personal encounter with the living God by a few individuals. It symbolizes the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, or to all people groups and all nations as represented by the Magi. And in an even broader sense, we have come to understand epiphanies as something that we can all personally experience as a moment of sudden revelation or insight. And if we reflect back upon our lives, we’ve all had these types of ‘God-Moments’ when the Divine breaks through into our lives in powerful and personal ways.
Jacob wrestles with an Angel of the Lord; recap the story. Where was he coming from? What was he heading towards?
As a youth, Jacob cheated his brother Esau of his birthright and then fled to Aram for about 20 years. On the way the Lord appeared to him at Bethel. Now he is returning to the land of Canaan, returning to hi roots and a possible confrontation with his brother. The Lord appears to him again just before this meeting. Two epiphanies, separated by years apart, but in both the Lord promised to bless him in a lasting way.
A dramatic story. Not all of us have Big epiphanies like Jacob, Sometimes we have little epiphanies, quiet moments of insight. Times when God reveals old truths to us In new ways, or shows us something about our own lives that gives us a fresh sense of perspective. They may seem little or small to others, but they can have profound impact on our lives if we allow them to. Sometimes the reason for these moments may seem unclear, even to us as we experience them. We may be tempted to minimize them or dismiss them because we are unclear about their meaning or significance. That precisely the time that we need to wrestle with them, just as Jacob did. To cling to God and refuse to let go. In this encounter, God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, which means, to strive, to fight, to content. Sometimes we need to fight with God.,Sometime we need to strive for understanding, to endure until we can make sense of what is happening to us or around us. To insist that we receive the grace needed to appropriate the blessing, to realize exactly what it is and what it means for our lives. And then to work just as hard to incorporate it into a new way of living or a new way of being or a new way of relating to others and the world around us.
Sometimes we don’t walk away unscathed. Jacob left his encounter with God with a limp. Like Jacob, Some of us will receive our blessings in the crucibles of adversity, through the challenges of ill-health or damaged relationships, financial hardship or loss. Sometime we need to be a contender, to fight through the tough times, refusing to be bowed down or beaten by them. Because the blessings are there if we look for them, if we seek them diligently enough. If we strive to make sense of them, and then come away better people as a result of our lessons learned in the school of hard-knocks.
Little epiphanies can become HUGE moments in our lives if we wrestle with them sufficiently.
Corporate Epiphanies. As important as these personal moments can be, there is more for us, too. Epiphanies can be a part of our collective experience as well. The man Israel has an epiphany; The nation Israel had one as well. We saw this in the experience of the nation Israel recorded in our second reading. Thus says the Lord,
“I am about to do A New Thing.” Can you perceive it? Where were they coming from? What were they heading towards?
The prophet Isaiah wrote to them at the end of the Babylonian captivity.
GOD PROMISES DELIVERANCE
The prophet sees the return of Israel from Babylon as a great ‘second exodus’. The mountains and valleys will be levelled to make a royal highway across the desert. The exiles will come home (40:3–5)!
In the event, some Jews remain in Babylon where they are settled, rather than sharing the hardship of rebuilding Jerusalem. The returning exiles are still not their own masters, for Judah becomes a province of the Persian empire.
In all this great upheaval, the prophet encourages Israel to know that God is with them. Their long period of striving through hardship is almost over, and God’s future is opening up for them. One day all the nations will look to Israel’s God for justice and salvation.
A NEW EXODUS
God declares that he will rescue his people in Babylon. But there is no need to look back to the past, because the same God is even now at work in the present (43:18–19).
God is about to do a new thing. He is going to bring back his people from their exile in Babylon. He will make a way across the wilderness, protect them from attack by wild animals and even provide rivers for their refreshment (43:19–21).
GOD’S OFFERING TO HIS PEOPLE
Now God is going to end Israel’s spiritual drought, just as he sends rain on thirsty land. He is going to pour his Spirit upon their descendants, so that they will delight to be called ‘the Lord’s’ (44:3–5).
GOD DECLARES HIMSELF TO ISRAEL
God is Israel’s true king and only redeemer—both her ruler and her Savior. He was there at the beginning and will be there at the end (44:6).
God speaks to Israel’s anxieties—her insecurity, lack of faith and fear of the future. He tells her there is no need to be afraid; to be insecure. God is not finished with them; he has a bring future for them full of promise and hope.
God is doing a new thing at Harbor Church. He is not finished with this great church, in fact, I believe that God is just getting started in doing a new thing in our midst. Can you perceive it? Can you feel it? God is at work in individual lives. Refreshing us, restoring us, invigorating us for a fresh new season. God is at work in the life of his Church to accomplish his purposes, to accomplish the mission that we have discerned we have been called to:
Our Church's Mission Statement:
Joyfully, we are invited by the Spirit of God to embrace, celebrate and minister to the hopes and hurts of our members, neighbors, and the larger cmmunity through Christ-centered prayer, worship, teaching, sharing and caring.
Our name/our DNA: Harbor Church will fulfill its mission to be a safe harbor,
In our Church Profile there is a quote by The Reverend Dr. Lynne C. Holden, a former interim minster, gave the following wonderful description of The Harbor Church:
"We are The Harbor Church! We are a place of shelter since we are a protected inlet from the storms and waves of the sea. You are safe here. You can drop anchor here, take refuge and strength, for here is a very present help in times of calm and times of trouble. We are the harbor where every type of water vessel is welcome, regardless of size, shape, or footage. . . At this harbor we cannot and we will not say: you must believe x, y, and z about God, about Jesus, about the Holy Spirit. There are no restrictions at this harbor This is a harbor where everyone, no matter who one is or where one is on one's journey of faith, is welcomed here to seek refuge and strength. Jesus has already paid the moorage fees. Jesus welcomes you regardless of whether you rowed, sailed, cruised, or you were ferried here. We are the harbor but not the harbormaster. We are called to do our job to offer sanctuary, safety, and shelter to all who find their way here. Your vessel and all other vessels that come to this harbor will be made extravagantly welcomed because we are The Harbor Church and the Harbormaster is Jesus our Lord. "
We still have a job to do. We are still called to live up to our name. to be a safe harbor to all who come into contact with us. To offer sanctuary, shelter, support and hope to all who know us.
We still have a mission before us, a ministry to accomplish, a community to serve, a world to change. Can you see it?
God is doing a new thing at our church and in our lives. Can you feel it? This year, Lets discover what it is together.