“Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind” -Epiphany 2017

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My favourite blog, Brain Pickings, posted a wonderful article of 10 things learnt in 10 years of blogging at the end of 2016. I was very struck by the first lesson learned:

Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind.

Today is the rich and beautiful feast of Epiphany, marking the beginning of the Epiphany season when we remember the visit of the Magi from the East, the Baptism of Jesus and the early miracle of Jesus’ ministry, the turning of water to wine at the wedding at Cana.

Thinking about those wise men, it occurred to me that their true wisdom was in recognising that their first guess of the palace of Jerusalem as the place to find this boy king was wrong. To use Maria Popova’s phrase, they allowed themselves the uncomfortable luxury of changing their mind. As I re-read the story of the visit of the magi I was struck by the response of Herod – one of fear and suspicion rather than what should have been a response of delight and hospitality. There are plenty of world leaders today whose response to difference, to strangers, to new ideas is one of fear and suspicion. Might we be more like the magi, ready to be open to a new way. They returned home by a new way, a different way, having had their eyes opened to something completely wonderfully new, a new hope perhaps.

This epiphany, this ‘revealing’ perhaps ultimately came to them quietly in their sleep, as they were nudged by an angel not to go back to Herod. This revelation came from outside, not from themselves, their own deliberations. This dream of the magi is depicted in a beautiful and arresting way in this carving at the Cathedral of Autun in France. Look at the gentle nudge by the angel using one finger, waking up one of the men. Might we be nudged awake to tread a new path in 2017 of hope, wisdom and adventure.

  By Cancre (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons HT

By Cancre (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Thanks to Sr Catherine for sharing this image on your blog.

The Incarnation is rude

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I put this picture of a 12th century mosaic of the baptism of Christ up on Facebook as my cover photo this week:

baptism of Christ.jpg

There were a number of witty comments about this image but one friend said ‘did anyone else think it looks a bit rude?’

I immediately responded, well, the incarnation IS rude!

It is. The fact of God made flesh is shocking. No wonder that the Eastern Orthodox focus on the Baptism of Christ at Christmas more than on the birth of the baby Jesus. Many Christians in Russia jump into freezing cold water in commemoration of their baptism (and Christ’s) at their Christmas celebrations. Just as we gasp (even if only at the thought) as we step into freezing cold water, so we should gasp at the fact of the incarnation. It is shocking. The day it stops seeming a ‘bit rude’ is the day we’ve missed the point.

Jesus came and lived among us, as one of us. He would have sweated, burped and got sand between his toes. His body was really human. And in being baptised by John he humbled himself fully to take on the human condition. Jesus’ baptism is a powerful epiphany or manifestation of what God did in the incarnation.

How rude!

Epiphany and house blessing with chalk

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This Epiphany I marked my house with chalk and prayed a blessing over our home for the first time.

epiphany chalk.JPG

As I marked the wall of the house I prayed the following:

The three Wise Men,
C Caspar,
M Melchior,
B and Balthazar followed the star of God’s Son who became human
20 two thousand
16 and  sixteen years ago.
++ May Christ bless our home
++ and remain with us throughout the new year. Amen.

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Christ, God’s incarnation, is present in the love and care we manifest to each other in our ordinary daily lives together.

The letters C, M and B also stand for Christus Mansionem Benedicat, Latin for “May Christ Bless this House.”

Read more about the origins of this tradition here.

Traditions are good for us, they give structure to our lives and to the passing of time, it’s never too late to start a new tradition so I decided to do this this year. Praying for God’s blessing over a home for the coming year is linked to the remembrance of the journey of the magi back home after visiting the Christ child. Matthew’s gospel tells us that the magi travelled home by a different route after being warned in a dream not to go back to Herod. One imagining of the story (and it has of course been embellished over the years with the creation of the ‘3 kings’ from the description of magi from the East) is that on their return home, the magi blessed the homes they stayed in. I don’t think this is too much a stretch of the imagination – they surely told the tale of their journey and their visit to Jerusalem, to Herod the king and finally their discovery of the child when the star appeared again to the hosts they stayed with.

You can’t encounter Christ without it changing you, without it changing the way you see the world. It happened to the magi: pray that it will happen to you too.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s New Year message encouraged us to think about whether we will be people of hostility or hospitality. The culture into which Jesus was born had a very strong sense of hospitality (and still has today in the Middle East) – it runs throughout scripture – remember Abraham entertaining angels? This sense of openness to the stranger is not very evident in Western culture and yet it is at the core of the Gospel and it is the message of the visit of the magi to the Christ child – that the stranger is welcomed and included in the Kingdom of God. So the act of blessing the house  and marking it with chalk goes along with a pledge for the home to be always open to the stranger.

I hope that might be the case for our home and that you might want to pray and pledge the same.

Happy Epiphany and may God bless your home and all who visit it in 2016!

magi playmobil.JPG

My amazing Playmobil crib set – the wise men are wonderful – especially the treasure chest and thurible!