I hope this New Year finds you well!
At Grace Kernersville, we continue to celebrate the season of Christmastide, but we will also be entering into the season of Epiphany (which is January 6). GPC’s Sunday school hour on January 5th will be given to acknowledging Epiphany and learning more about the holiday and season. In addition, this Sunday’s Sunday school is a family-wide event, and we will have activities for young and old.
A way to think about these two seasons and their relationship with one another is to imagine the difference between Christmas as a day and the practice of giving and opening presents on Christmas. Epiphany is the day in which the church remembers opening the gift of Christmas. The magi give gifts upon visiting the Christ-child, and the church gets to open the present of the coming of Jesus Christ. “Epiphany” itself means “manifestation”. In other words, Epiphany is like a revelation. As the church celebrates Epiphany, we recall those events when Jesus first manifest himself as the Christ — whether with the wise-men who sought the “King of the Jews” or in his baptism when the Voice spoke from heaven or when he performed his first miracle in Cana of Galilee.
This Sunday is also the first Sunday or Lord’s Day of 2020 and that means that we start over in our annual running through the Heidelberg Catechism during the worship service. You may learn more about the Heidelberg Catechism HERE.
The Heidelberg Catechism is divided into three parts: our estate of sin and misery, the means by whom we are delivered from sin and misery, and how we may live in gratitude for this deliverance. In addition, the Heidelberg explains the content of our Christian faith by helping us understand what the Apostle’s Creed teaches, how we obey God by living obediently according to the moral law, and what we mean when we pray the Lord’s Prayer.
Here are a couple of reasons why I like the Heidelberg Catechism.
- It is simple: misery, deliverance from misery, and living gratefully for the deliverance from sin and misery. The Heidelberg addresses complex theological questions and answers them plainly.
- It follows the rhythm of the year as we experience it. When we are heading into Holy Week, we are talking about Jesus and his work as professed in the Apostle’s Creed. As we move into Ordinary Time, we are talking about the life of faith lived out in obedience. As we move into Advent we talk of prayer which is the language of hope.
- Lastly, it is pastoral and applicable. As the Heidelberg is simple, it is also plain in its speaking. The Heidelberg Catechism is direct and speaks to reality as it is lived.
This Sunday’s first question and answer is one of the most appreciated in the entire Catechism as well as among all Protestant catechisms. It asks and answers:
Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.
That’s not a bad way to start the new year. You may access the version of the Heidelberg Catechism which Grace Kernersville uses HERE.
And finally, the artwork which accompanies the post is by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882), the brother of poet, Christina Rossetti. The painting is titled, St. John Comforting the Virgin at the Foot of the Cross. In Rossetti’s depiction of the event, I imagine that Jesus has just spoken his last words to Mary, “Woman, behold your son.” This beholding is not merely directing Mary to the Apostle John who would take her into his home, but it mirrors his words to her at the beginning of John’s gospel. In John 2 Jesus is asked to come to the aid of those throwing the wedding feast because the wine has run out. Jesus speaks to her saying, “Woman, was has this to do with me? My time has not yet come.” Several years ago I attempted to capture this interaction and its connection with John 19:25-26 via a sonnet.
Finding us outside as we waited on
Our master who brought us to the wedding,
His mother, not asking, telling her son
The shameful news the bridegroom was dreading.
“The wine has runout,” in question she eyed
Looking for what he might say and do.
“Woman, what’s that to me? My time’s not arrived.”
To the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
It’s been three years since he turned water to wine;
We stand at the foot of his crushing shame
Twisted round a stake like vintner’s vine
Is her son who saved a bridegroom’s good name.
“Why?” pours from her eyes in sobs overcome,
The wine saved for last, “Woman, behold your son.”
© Randall Edwards 2017
We will be looking at John 2:1-11 as a part of our recognition of Epiphany. I hope to see you Sunday. Until then, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!