But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him, but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
(Matthew 28: 16-20)
Epiphany is the day that celebrates the visit of the magi to the Christ Child. It is to remind us of the manifestation of God-in-flesh and the showing forth of the Child to the wider world.
But when I was drawing up the verse selections to add to the original Advent readings (which ended at Christmas), I wanted to look beyound the usual boundaries of the Christmas story. Because it seems to me that we need to remember the bigger purposes God had in this strange story that we have coated over with enamel and jewels and sugar and sentiment.
The Lord came among us in order that we would know Him even better than we (as humans) had. God knows the vast distance that seems to lie between the glory of His majesty and the daily struggles we face, the conditions that are far from glorious, the emptiness that sucks the joy out of our lives. He wants to bridge that gap, and took this step of becoming manifest in Time in order to give us an anchor point for our relationship with HIm.
No longer to we look forward to some vague time when we might be brought to His presence. Instead, He came to us! But not just for that moment in Time, caught and pinned by the census that Caesar Augustus ordered. No, He is with us always.
One of the things I found as I have made my way through these verse selections for this season has been the call to witiness and testify to the glory of God, to praise Him for His promises -- and for how He delivers on those promises. Traveling hand in hand with that has been God taking action in my own life, showing me that the things I have been writing about and meditating upon are not "just spiritual" things, but in fact what He will manifest for us every day, if we just open the door for Him.
The Lord God is very great.
Yet, every day, it is so easy to slide away from just how great He really is. We step out of our doors to take the trash out, and wonder what to do about a pending bill we cannot meet. Fear sneaks into our hearts, as we wonder if we'll be "carried out" like the trash because we cannot find a way to address our obligations. We sit down and something someone nearby says about their relationships sets us to thinking of all the damaged or toxic relationships in our own lives, leaving us grieving and bleeding because we don't know how to recover from cuts given by those closest to us. The doctor tells us our body is crashing in on itself and we wonder how we'll be able to deal with it, alone and with limited funds to pay for the care we need. On every side challenges are manifested, touchable, pressing in on us, and we start feeling that the Lord stands outside that circle of impending disasters, just out of reach, intangible in so many ways. In our distress with the here and now we forget Who made those promises, Who has delivered on them in the past and will do so again, Who it was that came and lived as one of us.
It was the Creator of the Universe, our God who holds the very fabric of existence in His hands, That's who made those promises.
Jesus was and is the Lord made manifest to us, and all authority in heaven and on earth rests in Him. If we abide in HIm, if we wait upon Him, if we endure in Him, that glory wraps around us. Seek out a picture of the vastness of galaxies, drink in that image, think of how vast that mere segment of the whole of the universe is, and then remember that in all that, God also concerns Himself with the smallest sub-atomic particle in your being. He has pulled us close, sheltering us. He has sought us out, come hunting for us, fought off the predators. Yet we get like the myopic sheep, relying too much on our weakest sense. We cannot see clearly, and what we think we see frightens us so much we keep pushing forward out of fear. Stop. Listen for His voice. Let Him bring us back to His protection.
God doesn't expect us to do everything. That's the wonder of this relationship. In one part of our minds, we hear the charge to "Go and make disciples," and we think we have to get our act into order. That the only way we can show the glory of the Lord is by way of "being perfect." But that isn't what the Lord expects from us. He just expects us to speak of what we have seen. "Write what you have seen." Praise the Lord for the little things He has done.
The glory of God shines brightest when we stop trying to be perfect on our own. To make disciples of others, we need only show them how much we ourselves need the Lord. We need only testify to the daily small ways He meets us in our own lives. The glory of God travels with us, and each little drop that falls from our own lives into the lives of others opens the way for them. For those around us who are sitting in "great darkness," even the smallest bit of light from us shines greatly. If we carry that to others, God Himself will make so much more of it in them.
Go. Praise the Lord. Write of what you have seen. For your eyes have seen the Salvation of the Lord. You have witnessed this, tell it to the others around you so they will know what the Lord has done.