Feliz Año Nuevo, Bonne Année, Happy New Year! I hope 2019 met you with abundant blessings! Our creating God is at work in our midst and I can’t wait to see what this new year has in store for each of us and all of us. A couple of new things that will be happening this week. We have a new Music Leader, Charles Anthony Bryant who starts with us this week. We will have a new order of worship in our service. Finally, we have a new theme for the year. There is so much happening at the church, so much new life and promise, we hope you will join us in person, online, or both!
This Sunday is Epiphany! This is the day when the Christ child was seen by the gentiles through the astrologers bringing the good news of God to everyone. And whether you are the astrologers, Herod, Mary, or Jesus, this week’s scripture is all about being seen. This just also happens to be our “Commit 2019!” phrase for January, commit to “Be Seen.” Read this text from Matthew 2 and see where people are showing up in the world and how their presence and being is seen.
2:1 After Jesus’ birth—which happened in Bethlehem of Judea, during the reign of Herod—astrologers from the East arrived in Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the newborn ruler of the Jews? We observed his star at its rising and have come to pay homage.” 3 At this news Herod became greatly disturbed, as did all of Jerusalem. 4 Summoning all the chief priests and religious scholars of the people, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem of Judea,” they informed him. “Here is what the prophet has written:6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah, since from you will come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” 7 Herod called the astrologers aside and found out from them the exact time of the star’s appearance. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, after having instructed them, “Go and get detailed information about the child. When you have found him, report back to me—so that I may go and offer homage, too.” 9 After their audience with the ruler, they set out. The star which they had observed at its rising went ahead of them until it came to a standstill over the place where the child lay. 10 They were overjoyed at seeing the star and, 11 upon entering the house, found the child with Mary, his mother. They prostrated themselves and paid homage. Then they opened their coffers and presented the child with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 They were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, so they went back to their own country by another route.” (Matthew 2:1-12)
Where would we be as people of faith if the astrologers hadn’t committed to seeing the Christ child? Would news of his life spread as quickly and to all the people needed to hear his good news? What about Mary sharing the gift of seeing her newborn child? What if she hadn’t wanted to share that new and special time with others? I can’t say I would have blamed her.
Being seen is a matter of consent and intention. We consent when and how we share our life, our faith, and our personhood with each other. It is a vulnerable act that is the gift of a trusting relationship. We show up, are present, and seen with people we are willing to share love with. Which is why our intentions with our life are a necessary part of being seen. If you show up in this world and don’t know your intentions, then there may be a lack of trust to see you in your whole personhood, or fear to show up themselves.
Friends, who have we shown our whole selves to? Have we shown up in this world, in spaces of newness, and shared our whole selves with both neighbors and strangers? Do they know your passions, your dislikes, your faith journey, your fears, or your dreams? What would it mean for your relationship with God for those parts of you to be seen? What do you need to go into this new year and share the whole you with the world? These are not easy questions and so easy answers will not come. But the answer and support are easier to assess and share when you are in community and I hope that you find your commitment to this community one that helps you serve this calling.
A prayer for your week: Holy One, for the miracle of your birth and the gift of sharing Christ with the world, we give you thanks. May our relationship support me to share the gift of myself, your created child, with the world.
Children and Youth Ministry Update
Dear Park People,
On our last Sunday of 2018, December 30th, the Park Sunday School children read the story of the Royal Visitors (in preparation for Epiphany) in their Spark Children’s Bible. We discussed the fact that the Visitors made long trips, from different countries, because their wisdom was leading them to Jesus. This was an indication of God’s love for all people; not just those from one part of the world, or of one specific religion.
For our creative response, we made lots of beautiful crowns to wear (and give to others) on Epiphany, as we honor and celebrate the journey of the Royal Visitors.
On Epiphany, itself (January 6th 2019) the children will be re-examining the story of the Wise Ones, by reading the version in the Children’s Bible Storybook, by the Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The focus for discussion will be the gifts that they offered to the baby Jesus, and the gifts that we hope to offer, with love and thanks-giving to God, in the New Year. The creative response will be the children’s participation in the Three Queens service, with processing, bearing gifts, and playing their percussion instruments during some of the lively music. May this season of increasing light bring many beautiful epiphanies to all of us!
Blessings and joy to you! Rev. Francesca Fortunato: Children’s Minister