Excited about epiphany...

Every year during the early days of January, I pause with these words from the Bard of Vermont:  Frederick Buechner.

I discovered that if you really keep your eye peeled to it and your ears open, if you really pay attention to it, even such a limited and limiting life as the one I was living on Rupert Mountain opened up onto extraordinary vistas. Taking your children to school and kissing your wife goodbye. Eating lunch with a friend. Trying to do a decent day's work. Hearing the rain patter against the window. There is no event so commonplace but that God is present within it, always hiddenly, always leaving you room to recognize him or not to recognize him, but all the more fascinatingly because of that, all the more compellingly and hauntingly... If I were called upon to state in a few words the essence of everything I was trying to say both as a novelist and as a preacher, it would be something like this: Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness; touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden hear of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments and life itself is grace.

Such is the core of a mystical heart, yes? One that encounters the sacred in the ordinary, one that expects our flesh to vibrate with the Spirit, one that is willing to celebrate the whole of life - the good, bad and ugly - and know that it is saturated with the divine. One of the reasons I cherish doing the Christmas (now Epiphany) Pageant with our children - and have cherished doing it one form or another for over 30 years - is that children are by nature organic mystics. Walter Wangerin once wrote that children below the age of 10 vibrate with the holy. They see angels dancing in the wind on a daily basis and speak with the Lord in a natural voice as if this were how existence was supposed to be. 

A Roman Catholic sister that used to work with me in the Farm Workers movement once held my first daughter when she was very young and looked deep into her eyes. After a few moments of silence she handed her back to me saying, "Babies are born in communion with the holy - they are not dis-integrated or scared by sin - they are so wholly alive. But by 10 years of age they forget this unity - or have it frightened or embarrassed out of them - and we spend the rest of our lives trying to reclaim it." How did Joni Mitchell put it: we are star dust, we are golden, we are caught in the Devil's bargain and we've got to get ourselves back to the Garden?"

The other part of the Buechner quote that helps give shape and form to my January is this:

Life itself can be thought of as an alphabet by which God graciously makes known his presence and purpose and power among us. Like the Hebrew alphabet, the alphabet of grace has no vowels, and in that sense his word to us are always veiled, subtle, cryptic, so that it is left to us to delve into their meaning., to fill in the vowels, for ourselves by means of all the faith and imagination we can muster. God speaks to us in such a way, presumably, not because he chooses to be obscure, but because, unlike a dictionary word whose meaning is fixed, the meaning of an incarnate word is the meaning it has for the one it is spoken to, the meaning that becomes clear and effective in our lives only when we ferret it out for ourselves.

Tomorrow in worship we bring the Christmastide season to a close with the Feast of Epiphany and open the season of Epiphany. This is a time that is too often hurried over and passed by on our way to someplace else.  Mostly, I suspect, because if comes after Christmas and before Lent. I hope to personally take this season slowly - and encourage our public worship time to be slow, too - so that we can both practice and savor listening to our lives. I am excited to enter into this forgotten season with renewed vigor and curiosity...


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