by Pastor Barb
The new year brought good news: the Epiphany of our Lord; the season
when the true identity of the baby in the manger is revealed. He is the Christ, the long-awaited Savior. We learn this through the Magi. Then, as the story unfolds in the weeks after Epiphany Sunday, the news is affirmed by the Holy Spirit descending as a dove and the voice of God claiming Jesus at his baptism, and by his healing of the sick by calling on the power of the God. In these and other ways, it slowly dawns on us that God has truly come to abide among us. He has come to build the Kingdom of Heaven right here, through Jesus, and this savior is for all of us, every one.
This is the fulfillment of the ancient promise; the embodiment of what the prophets foretold. “Hold on,” they said; “salvation is coming. You will be all right. Just keep the faith.” And in the tiny child in the manger, and in the young man who launched his ministry by making broken people whole, the promise is kept. God is faithful. God comes through for us. Today, we surely need the good news of Epiphany just as much as our faith ancestors did. God remains faithful, but our own faith may be sorely tested by the troubles around.
Political strife, community violence, the Corona virus, actual shooting wars, and all the
problems that seem to threaten the future might make us wonder where God has gone. So, we can look ahead, and be reminded of just where God is.
As we approach the transition from Epiphany to Lent, we note the halfway mile-marker between Christmas and Holy Week. The 40 days of Lent begin with Ash Wednesday. We fall to our knees, and confess that we are sinners. With the ashes of palm leaves, the cross of Christ is traced on our foreheads, just where we were marked with the cross in baptism, to remind us that we are dust, and to dust we shall return.
During Lent we are reminded of who we are, and who God is. And that tells us just where God is: right here among us. Marching toward Jerusalem. Preparing us for the cross.
Throughout the 40 days of Lent, our foreboding grows. The world’s troubles will continue, and Jesus will come ever closer to Calvary. We cannot avoid Good Friday, but Easter Sunday will follow. So we can draw once again upon the voices of the prophets: “Hold on. Salvation is coming. You will be all right. Just keep the faith.
by Cindy Nehrbass
“Tin-foiled” chocolate hearts, and crunchy sugar sweet-tarts with typed messages requesting affection “Be Mine”, “Hug Me” taped to store-bought Dora the Explorer and Pokemon cards (or in my day it was Charlie’s Angels and Scooby Doo)...handwriting three-dozen names of our children’s
classmates—must make sure to include everyone — on your long Valentine-to-do-list. Handmade cards for grandma, lonely friends, your spouse. Flowers, special dinners, phone calls, and hearts everywhere—covering Facebook, and dangling from store ceilings. Each February we dedicate a day to show those around us that we care by asking them to, “Please be our Valentine?” But does God get a special mid-winter “Valentine” from us too? February 14th, was originally a day to honor St. Valentine, a third-century Roman saint commonly associated with “courtly love” who supposedly helped free Christians from prison during times of persecution, by professing his faith through action. Rumor has it that, while St. Valentine was under arrest for trying to convert people to Christianity, the judge asked him to prove the validity of Christ by healing his blind daughter. Faithful Valentine placed his hands on the eyes of a judge’s daughter, and in Christ’s name her sight was restored. This miracle brought the judge to Christianity and he was baptized along with his 44 family members. In gratitude, the judge also freed all of his Christian inmates.
But was Valentine’s Day, ever a Christian holiday? Not really, only in as much as the
Catholic church made special days to honor saints. And in 1969, the Roman Catholic
Church even removed St. Valentine from the General Roman Calendar, because so
little is really known about him. However, the church still recognizes him as a saint, listing him in the February 14th spot of Roman Martyrology.
So what if next year we were to make St. Valentine’s day a special day to express our own faith in Christ —like Valentine out loud to others and in our actions — so they might hear the good news and be freed from their own personal prisons and bondage from sin and fear? What if we were to declare our true love and ultimate “Valentine” be Christ, by performing acts of kindness on His behalf? Saying, “Christ, please be mine.” Because Christ has already responded, “I am yours.” His life, and ultimate death on the cross, the biggest expressions of love to us all.