2020 is about to be behind us and 2021 lies ahead. It has been a difficult year for nearly all of us. Still, we found new ways to be the church in Bristol: to offer our love and support and care; to gather to hear the Gospel; to sing God’s praises in times of trial and rejoicing; to gather as God’s people to love and support one another. One phrase that one can sometimes hear around churches and organizations is, “We’ve always done it like this.” That phrase was probably used a lot less this past year than in many others. We are not yet out of the woods of the global Covid-19 pandemic but we do have cause for hope. Still, it will be some time before it will be fairly safe to gather in old ways as we used to do.
As the year turns new, the church calendar changes from Christmas season to Epiphany season. Most of us know that Epiphany, in the church context, refers to the visit of the Magi to the child Jesus and his parents. That event from the Gospel of Matthew is traditionally celebrated on January 6. But the season of Epiphany continues from that date up to the beginning of the season of Lent. An epiphany is an unveiling of mystery, a revelation, an “Aha!” moment. And the gospel texts for the season highlight various epiphanies about Jesus, his identity and purpose. The culmination of the season is the Transfiguration, which is a revelation to certain of Jesus’ disciples, and us. The Transfiguration gospel is used the on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. This year, that will fall on February 14.
In early December, our New Hampshire Conference UCC updated its recommendations for churches during this pandemic. At that time, with cases rising in NH (and this has certainly continued) we were advised to suspend in-person indoor gatherings through at least the Epiphany season (until 2/14/21). Given the current state of the pandemic and the vaccine rollout, it seems to me that February 14 will pass with us continuing our gatherings remotely for some time to come. This has me thinking about epiphanies and the season ahead of us. Often in past years, these cold and / or stormy winter months of January and February represent a bit of a “low” time with regard to turnout at church services and functions. It seems to me to be a very good time to reflect on epiphanies, unveilings, and revelations of God / Jesus, both IN the Bible and IN our own lives. In your personal devotions, meditations, and prayer times during this season, perhaps you might consider thinking about epiphanies you have had. Most of us would not say we’ve been invited up the mountain with Jesus to witness a miracle. But many of us have had mountaintop experiences; experiences of God’s presence with us or God’s promises upon us. Let’s all try to take at least a few moments to reflect on where and how we have been moved to faith or in the faith. What are those times? And can we remember them and thank God for the revelation, the blessing, the miracle small or large that we have witnessed. In doing so, I am convinced that we shall be stronger faith community when we again gather in the old ways (and some new ones) to hear the Gospel, to sing God’s praise, to come together in fellowship as siblings of Christ.
Epiphany blessings to you all,