Epiphany: Claiming the Sacred in the Ordinary
Epiphany, the twelfth day after Christmas, is dedicated to retelling the story of the Magi (also called Wise Men or Kings) coming from the East to visit the Christ child. This is a poignant story of Jesus being recognized as the Savior for all the world – yes, even for people in places far away from Bethlehem. The message of Christ being proclaimed to the Gentiles (non-jews) is something we cannot take for granted. We read of the drama and conflict around this especially in the New Testament book of Acts. “How can the Jewish Messiah be a messiah for Gentiles?” was the question. And the answer is found in the Hebrew Scriptures, through the voice of the prophets and the covenant of Abraham. The knowledge of God would go out to all the world through the people of Israel.
To celebrate the worldwide message of the Messiah, Epiphany is celebrated with a wide array of customs around the world. It is the end of the twleve day celebration of Christmas: that’s right, Christmas is a twelve day holiday, from Dec. 2 through Jan. The greenery and nativity scenes put up at Christmas are taken down at Epiphany. Other customs include gift giving, special “king” cakes and ancient celebrations that center around water, baptism, and house blessings.
I have encouraged house blessings and performed some since I’ve been here at LPC. I’ve also blessed a few cars! Epiphany house blessings are a fun occasion (and also provide a nice excuse to have a party). The ancient method includes using chalk to write the initials of the three magi over doors. The letters “CMB” stand for the initials of the Magi (traditionally named Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar), and also happen to be the first letters of the words in the Latin phrase Christus mansionem benedicat, which translates as “may Christ bless this house.”
In Great Britain such blessings are done in work places as well. Blessing homes, tools, cars, playgrounds and work places are ways of acknowledging the sacredness that is in the “ordinary” places of our lives, as opposed to having strict sacred-secular delineation. The great “ah-ha!” or “revelation” (which is the meaning of the term epiphany) about sacredness-in-the-ordinary occurred at the birth of Jesus – in a smelly manger, in a small village on the “wrong side of the tracks” to poor parents. This is more than a quaint story; this is deeply in the heart of Christian faith. God comes to the lowly, the rejected, the unnoticed people and surprising places. Fancy churches communicate beauty and power, but they can be misinterpretted to say, “unless you’re in a place like this and can afford such beauty, you are not in a truly holy place.” Foreign magi brought gifts to this humble family appropriate for a king. These powerful men dropped to their knees; they became vulnerable humans in that manger, and left transformed, “taking a different route” home.
If you would like to have your home blessed in the New Year, please contact me – we will visit about your home, how you’d like to make it a special occasion (a small gathering of friends, perhaps) and set the date. The chalk is optional – the important part is recognizing and ritually claiming your home as a sacred space.
Happy Epiphany! — Pastor Diane
And a Happy New Year to all.
On December 12, 2019 Jane Chou and Bess Williams attended the quarterly meeting of the Community Outreach Group (COG) at the Middletown Reformed Church. The purpose of the meeting was the disbursement of funds to non-profit organizations in Monmouth County. As many of you know, LPC supports COG in their community mission. COG disburses funds twice a year in June and December.
The following is a list of the organizations that received $31,400 from COG. to help those in need.
- ASLAN YOUTH MINISTRIES
- CENTER FOR HUMAN DEVELOPMENT
- HABITAT FOR HUMANITY
- KEANSBURG PUBLIC SCHOOLS
- BAYSHORE LUNCH PROGRAM (KEYPORT)
- KEYPORT MINISTERIUM FOOD PANTRY
- ANNS DAY CARE
- MONMOUTH DAY CARE CENTER
- NO LIMITS CAFÉ
- LOVE THY NEIGHBOR
- PARKER FAMILY HEALTH CLINC
- STEPHY’S PLACE
- BLESSING BRIGADE
- ONE WORLD/ONE LOVE
- EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE FUND (COG)
Thanks to all of our congregation that have added supported this mission.
DEACON’S DISBURSEMENT REPORT
On Thursday, December 12, 2019 the LPC Board of Deacons held their monthly meeting. Disbursement of funds was part of the agenda. A contribution was made to Family Promise of Monmouth County in the amount of $850.00 to help with operational expenses.
It is with the generous support of the LPC congregation that we can do this. Thank you!