Just as we did for Advent, we will be posting a series of reflections on the upcoming Sunday’s sermon scripture during this season of Epiphany. You may use these devotions as you want – for yourself, with a group or as a family; all at once, or broken up throughout the week. We suggest you start with the Scripture readings before you engage the other pieces. Enjoy!
When we tell the Christmas story, we tend to mash up the stories from Matthew and Luke to create one narrative. It becomes a rich story with messengers of God appearing to everyone – Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the magi in their dreams – spreading joyful news. However, in combining the stories, we can miss some of the wonderful details each account contains.
In Luke’s gospel the Christmas story has angels appearing to Zechariah, Mary and the shepherds, but not to Joseph or Mary’s cousin Elizabeth. In this telling, there is never any question of Mary’s loyalty to Joseph or the possibility that he might not raise the child Mary carried as his own. What we see is the very ordinary life and faith of a young couple punctuated by some amazing encounters.
Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth and they rejoice in the children they carry. Joseph does what an ordinary husband and father does. Joseph and Mary travel to Bethlehem to do their civic duty. They show their new baby off to some visitors. They take Jesus home and then, when it is time, they do as other Jews do and take their child to have him purified and blessed.
Each of these ordinary actions is accompanied by a miraculous one. And yet Mary continues to be amazed each time she hears what the angel told her in the words of others. We see in Mary how something as common as having a baby is actually pretty amazing in itself. As Mary felt her baby kick and move, perhaps she thought, “Of course this child will bring good news to the world. He is a miracle! All babies are miracles!” Hearing the words of the angel repeated through ordinary, but unknown messengers reminded her of the reality of who this child was, not just to her, but to the world.
The same goes for Joseph. An ordinary proud father, doing his duty for his family, his faith, and to the empire that occupies their land. Though he may not have been visited by an angel in this version of the story, he has certainly heard the words over and over, from shepherds, from prophets and from his wife. This child is not just your miracle, this child is a miracle for all of us.
The birth of Jesus was worth celebrating even if he weren’t the vessel for the living God among us. Each one of us is a miracle. Each one of us is loved by God in miraculous ways. So, as we continue to celebrate the birth of Christ, let us look in the mirror and let us look around and see the miracles each of us truly are and celebrate just as joyfully.
- What is the last thing that surprised or amazed you?
- Do you like or dislike surprises?
- What are little things that bring you joy? Does something like finding a penny on the street bring you joy and surprise? What is your version of finding a “penny from heaven?” And how do you respond to that joy?
Amazing God, creator of all that is, from the stars in the sky, to the dirt below our feet, we are in awe of you. Each day You surprise us again. Help us see the miracles in every ordinary moment as well as in dazzling and overwhelming moments of grace and joy. In Your holy name, we pray. Amen.