God’s Appearance to Us

by | Jan 9, 2018

This last Saturday was Epiphany. This holiday celebrates the revelation of God to us in the birth of Jesus Christ. This is dramatically represented with the arrival of foreign, Gentile leaders who searched for the new king of the Jews, following a star. The Western tradition is that the trip took twelve days, arriving on January 6th according to our calendar.

On Sunday I was in a church where the nativity scene was fully displayed, with the addition of the three kings. As I considered the search of the wise men, I noticed that the little baby Jesus in the scene was so small that I could not see him. In fact, someone had placed an angel figure (which was not part of the original set) behind and between the Mary and Joseph figures, such that I imagined how some might have confused the angel for the object of their search.

I’m always awed that God came to be one of us, and chose to come as the baby of a poor, displaced young woman in a small outpost of a world empire, who got pregnant under questionable circumstances. Not only does this represent God’s love for the poor and the powerless, but it also resulted in obscuring the divine nature of Jesus for most of the world. Even believers in God read the Hebrew Scriptures and imagined that when the Messiah comes, he will come as a mighty king who will overthrow the oppressor. It would be easy to miss the Messiah, or get distracted by one who appears more majestic, just as I had a hard time finding the Christ figure in the nativity set, even when I was looking for him.

As we consider God’s appearance to us, do we sit back and wait for God to come to us, looking the way we want God to look, or do we search out God’s face even when we must leave our comfort zones? And even if we are actively seeking, do we sometimes miss Christ in our presence, because Christ is in the least of us, in the unexpected person, in an undesirable place?

During this Epiphany time, especially now as displaced people continue to be turned away from safety and security, may we be willing to open our eyes, our hearts, our minds that we may discern God’s star for us, leading us forward as we actively search for Christ’s presence in our lives. May we see Christ in our neighbor, in our church, in ourselves, but also in places of pain and poverty. And may we, too, pay him homage, wherever we find him.

Here are a few ways you might encounter Christ in a more meaningful way:

Pray. You may have heard that Rev. Art French died just last night. Art suffered a serious fall at Monte Vista Grove on Thursday, hitting his head and also breaking some bones. Please pray for Art’s family and we’ll let you know when a service is planned. We can also pray thanksgiving for the life of Hazel Harken, especially at the service celebrating her life at Westminster Gardens, 3:30 p.m. January 27.

Learn. I expect you know that “disciple” comes from a word for “student.” We Presbyterians prioritize training for all of God’s people, so I invite everyone to WinterFest. It’s not only for elders and deacons; you don’t even need to be a church member to attend WinterFest, which is coming up in just a couple of weeks. You can find WinterFest above in the top-right of the header or under “News and Events”. I also invite you to look around the new website. (Note: due to my delays, the contents of the site need updating, so please be patient-but you’ll get the idea.)

Follow Christ’s mission. As Jesus was born temporarily homeless, we have an opportunity to act in a meaningful way for the homeless in our community. See below for information on the homeless count-an annual census of those who are unsheltered during these colder winter nights. The count is used to secure resources to aid them in the coming year. The count takes place at night and early morning January 23-25 depending on the area; in Pasadena the count is scheduled for 8-10 pm January 23, and 6-8 am January 24. See here for details and to sign up.

May we spend our days witnessing to Christ’s presence in our lives, and in the world. As we live in growing and constant awareness of this blessing, may we too be a blessing for others, and point to Christ for all to see.

Thanks for being on the journey together,