Friday, January 2, 2009

The 9th Day of Christmas

Today, we start turning our thoughts toward the mystery of Epiphany—the good news that Jesus came not just for one particular nation but for all! And, of course, who can miss the foretelling of the Magi in this beautiful passage:
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses' arms. Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord. Isaiah 60:1-6
We live in a day and age when more and more people are saying they can be Christian without the church. Others claim to be spiritual without religion. Still others flock to large churches with inspiring, life-applying messages, high quality music, and great programs for the kids and youth. But what if, churches were known less for the quality of preaching and music, the quantity of programs, and such and more for the light and joy they radiate into their communities?

What if we redefined evangelism? Instead of threatening folks with the possibility of hell, we offered the possibility of an abundant life here and now with Christ. What if instead of inviting folks to hear our great praise band, our great choir, or inspiring preacher (assuming we have any of those things!), we invited them to join a community of radiant, joyful people. Okay so now I hear REM in my ear singing “Shiny Happy People” but perhaps that is the idea! (Not that we don't have problems and struggles but that, like Paul, we can still be joyful and radiant in the midst of our struggles.)

Maybe we, the church, have missed the point. Perhaps instead of offering a buffet of programming, comfortable stadium seating, inspiring messages, and CD quality music, we need to offer folks an opportunity to join the dance, to be a part of something bigger than themselves, to give them a job to do that makes a difference in this world, and, most importantly, a relationship with the God that makes all this possible?

So today, I think we should join with the nine ladies dancing because the glory of the Lord has risen upon us, broke into our darkness, and we should be thrilled and rejoice! And on this 9th day of Christmas, let’s take whatever opportunity comes our way to invite others to join the dance!

And just for fun (and because it makes me laugh):

Image Sunray Sunset by Gary Wick

1 comment:

Steve West said...

Oh this is so good. I'm with you on this! I think a new church is emerging that is getting back to what it means to love with love beyond our ability and to see the Spirit moving in ways that can't be defined in organizational terms. Most importantly (you pegged it!), God is moving in such a way that people are beginning to look beyond ourselves to the bigger picture of mystery and grace.

I have about decided that my central task as a pastor is not to provide excellent programs or make the numbers or please the people. My primary task is to help people embrace the bigger mystery, to step out of life as we know it into the world of the Spirit, to embark on the quest of knowing God and being known by God, and to open themselves to the lifelong process of being formed in the image of Christ from one degree of glory to another.