January 6, 2019
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord. As the Christmas story unfolds, Matthew introduces the Magi, the star-gazers, from the East who come bearing gifts for the newborn King. Because there were three gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh, tradition has held that there were three, and we call them kings; Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. Whatever they were, or how many there actually were, today’s feast reveals Jesus as the King of the Gentiles too, not just the Jews. The gifts are significant and represent aspects of who the newborn King of the Jews is; gold for a king, frankincense the fragrance of worship for God, and myrrh, the oil of preparation at death. Perhaps most interesting is the way the Magi found Jesus. Even today scientists search the stars and are able to determine that a celestial phenomenon occurred at the time of Jesus’ birth. The Star of Bethlehem guided the Wise Men and led them to find the Savior who is Christ, the Lord of all peoples, nations, and races. The word Epiphany means “manifestation,” as Jesus is shown to be Lord of all. Today’s feast, in our season of celebrating His birth, encourages us to recognize Him too, as our personal Lord and Savior. He is the world’s true Light which the darkness cannot extinguish. In many parts of the world, Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas today. We join them as we continue this beautiful season in acclaiming who Jesus is.
Today I encourage you to take in the beauty of our Church one last time. After the Oratory’s 11:30 Mass, it will all be coming down and packed away for another year until we once again celebrate the Lord’s Nativity. If you are able, please come and lend a hand in dismantling the trees, the Manger, and other decorations. This weekend we also invite you take home one of the poinsettias that have been a special way to remember our loved ones. (With little care they can last a long time and even go on the patio in the summer. Watch them grow into bushes.) At home in New England we put up our Christmas decorations on Nicholas Day, Dec. 6th, and all came down on Epiphany, Jan. 6th. (Unless the tree dried out too much and Mom was afraid those old fashioned lights would catch it on fire.) It’s a good tradition and helps us keep Christmas for a bit longer. Next Sunday, Jan. 13th is the “official” end to the Christmas season as we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. (Liturgically I understand it as another ‘epiphany’ but practically, Christmas ought to end with the visit of the Magi.)
The Parish Council and I have been in the process of setting priorities and goals for this coming year. We have spent several meetings determining what we believe are our strengths and areas of improvement to keep us faithful to our mission. Very shortly we will be asking your input by use of a survey. Yes, I am aware that the parish did a survey a few years back and I have studied the results. I know my predecessor worked to implement some of the suggestions. Before the Council determines what to focus on this year, we would like to hear from YOU. The survey will be conducted online, and also in Church one Sunday during January. Please give it your full participation and help us as we work together to make St. Luke’s the best it can be. The results will hopefully be available in early February.
Finally today, as this new calendar year begins, I hope that many of you have made some good resolutions for 2019. Whether it’s better health, better communication with family and friends, or trying to overcome a bad habit, I wish you success. Perhaps this year you could add a spiritual dimension to your resolution, for instance, if it’s a goal to shed a few pounds and focus on better health, think of John the Baptist as he says to Jesus, “I must decrease that He may increase.” As you shed those pounds ask the Lord to increase a spiritual hunger in you to grow in your relationship with Him. As you set out to be in better contact with family, friends and loved ones, think of the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, the joy of Mary’s greeting, causing the infant John to leap in the womb of his mother. Being in touch with those we love brings joy and graces we will never regret. As you face the desire to overcome a habit that isn’t a good one remember the beautiful words of St. Paul, “I can do all things thru Him who strengthens me.” Believe God wants to help, and stick to it. He will strengthen you.
God Bless! Happy Christmastide!
Remember those 3 Hail Marys (Fr. Pete)