The seasons of Christmas and Epiphany hold before us the powerful message of God’s coming to us in the person of Jesus and how our lives are turned around and opened to a bigger, more generous and just world where we are guided by the light of God into an amazing freedom. I say amazing freedom, because it’s a freedom from focusing on ourselves, our worries and wants, to focusing on welcoming and engaging others with good news.
Epiphany is often a quieter time in the life of the church as people go away on holiday, and this year we have the impact of the covid virus to add to that so that our services have been smaller in number. However Epiphany is a wonderfully rich season of the Church’s year where we hear the story of the Magi searching for the baby born to be king. It’s a story about wise and learned scholars from beyond the people of Israel who are drawn to worship this baby and so learn that in the birth of Jesus, God is reaching out not just to the people of Israel but to people of all races and nations. We also hear about a powerful desert preacher who drew people from everywhere to hear his preaching and to be baptised in the cold life-giving waters of the Jordan – as he prepares not just his contemporaries but us for the life and ministry of Jesus.
The account of Jesus’ own baptism in that same river by John the Baptist reminds us of how God so loves us that he wants us to share his life and how through baptism we are included in the people of God, we are embraced and welcomed and also challenged to grow more and more into God’s likeness in the way we live and act in our time.
And then we hear just how powerfully God touches our lives with story after story of people hearing God’s call and leaving behind one way of life for another more expansive life. We hear the story of the call of the fishermen to leave their nets in order to accompany Jesus and learn from him the gracious love of God. We hear the story of the wedding in Cana of Galilee which is much more about teaching us how God fills our emptiness with the abundance of his grace than it has to do with changing water into wine. We hear Jesus setting out his agenda by reading from the Prophet Isaiah in the Synagogue teaching us that God has come in Jesus to bring good news to the poor, recovery of sight to the blind and to let the oppressed go free. And this week we hear words given in a dream to a young man called Jeremiah which are also meant for us to hear: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you and before you were born I consecrated you…
These words echo other words we have heard from the prophets that speak of God holding us in the palm of his hand, words that tell us how God will always be taking the initiative to reach out and touch our lives with grace.
One of my favourite psalms recounts that movement of God toward us in more detail where the Psalmist sings: O Lord, you search me and you know me. You know my resting and my rising, You discern my purpose from afar. You mark when I walk or lie down. You are acquainted with all my ways. (Psalm 139) Yes, these stories are meant to be heard as God addressing us personally, and telling us of God’s initiative in reaching out and inviting us into his life. For Jeremiah when he heard God’s invitation, he was hesitant, just as Moses and many others before him. What would this mean for his life? God’s call on us is an invitation to an adventure of faith that will lead us to growing more fully as a human being as we learn to love as God loves us.