When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.

This is the Sixth and final Sunday after Christmas. 

We have reflected over these weeks on the way Jesus had made Himself known to the world: To the Jewish people; To the poor and humble; To the world; and In His call to the disciples. In these weeks we have covered thirty years of Jesus’ time on earth. Today, we take a step back. 

After Jesus’ birth, He and His mother would stay confined for forty days. She was considered ritually impure because of the blood associated with birth. This time of separation concluded with a reappearance, a revelation, at the time of ritual purification.

The Holy Family goes up to the Temple, only a few miles away from Bethlehem, to perform this ceremony. We can imagine that their thoughts were on what they had to do. We know how it is when our focus is on the things we have to accomplish. Like the Holy Family, in the midst of our focus, we are taken by surprise.

The words of surprise are summed up in this statement: The child’s father and mother were amazed. A very old and holy man sings praise to God for what he has been allowed to see – the glory of Israel, the light to the Gentiles. An elderly woman goes about speaking prophecy and praising God, talking to everyone who awaited redemption.

For us Christians, each day must be a new revelation, a new offering. Each is a chance to show who we are as a people, as a family, and as Church. Each day is a new chance to take the light of Christ that is in us, as symbolized by the candles we hold, and speak to those awaiting redemption.  Each of our homes, that hold this light, needs to be a place of refuge and safety that is in some respects apart from the world. In these places we find our refuge and offer it to those we may meet.

On this day, let us consider how we might be taken by surprise by the way Jesus might appear at any moment. It may be in any encounter we might have. Let us allow ourselves to be pulled away from our focus to a new focus, the opportunity to bring Jesus’ light to those who sit in darkness. This season of revelation was our beginning. We walk out of it holding a light and making an offering to the world.

The
realization.

From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

This is the Fifth Sunday after Christmas. As we’ve been studying, Christmas is a season focused on Jesus’ revelation. 

Jesus’ revelation came first to the shepherds – the poor, lowly, and outcasts of that territory. At the arrival of the Maji, Jesus was revealed to the nations of the world. As Jesus rose up from the waters of the Jordan at His baptism the nation of Israel came to know Him as the Son of God by the descent of the Holy Spirit and the voice of the Father saying: “This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.” The Baptizer finally saw clearly who Jesus is, recognizing Him as the Lamb of God come to take away the sins of the world, and he declared it.

Recalling all this, we see the many and varied ways Jesus was revealed. As we hear today, at Capernaum, there was no heavenly choir to announce Jesus’ arrival. There were no scientists from the east with precious gifts and a mighty star to follow. There was no opening of heaven, descent of a dove, or voice of the Father as at the Jordan. All Jesus had in Capernaum was His voice, His call. 

In a season focused on revelation, Jesus comes among us saying: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus delivers His message, His gospel: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” Jesus invites us to allow Him to be revealed within us. He invites us to realize Who He is. He invites us to get up and get out into the world in response as disciples carrying His message.

Today, the Gospel recalls Jesus’ arrival in Capernaum by the sea. In Capernaum, Jesus calls the first of His disciples, Andrew, the first called, followed by Simon, aka Peter, aka Cephas, James, and John. They respond fully to the awakening in their hearts. Jesus is revealed, not by signs and wonders, but by their response to interior awakening and revelation.

At Capernaum we find a new and ever permanent call to revelation. This revelation is in Jesus’ words and our call to respond. Like all those called before us, let us allow Jesus’ life to be awakened in us in ever new and great ways. Jesus is calling! Allow His revelation to take hold. Leave the old self behind and go out as His revelation to a searching world. Today, here in Schenectady, as in Capernaum, we hear Jesus. Allow Him to be revealed in us and by our response.

The
knowing.

I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

On this Fourth Sunday after Christmas we hear the testimony of John. In the gospel, John twice says: “I did not know him.

It seems odd for John to say such a thing. Afterall, John and Jesus were cousins. It is true that they lived in different towns, and transportation was hard on foot. Based on Church Tradition, John lived with his family in Ein Kerem, an eighty-mile, three-day journey on foot from Nazareth. Yet, it is highly likely they did know each other. It was common for larger Jewish family gatherings to occur, especially during festivals, as well as in pilgrimages to Jerusalem. So why would John say: “I did not know him?

Remember, that this Epiphany season is about revelation, Jesus becoming known. What John experienced following Jesus’ baptism was a deeper knowing of Who Jesus is. He was no longer the cousin I knew back when. Actually, I probably knew Him better in my mother’s womb when I leapt for joy. Now, I really get it. The Holy Spirit has helped me to see; I see Jesus in fulness according to the Spirit.

Like John, seeing and experiencing the Lord in the fullness of His being and then acting upon that knowledge is the grace of God working in us. It is the Holy Spirit inspiring us. It is also a call to look beyond mere appearance and to see each and yes, every person, as the image of Emmanuel, the image of God among and with us.

John acted on his knowledge and spoke of it to the crowd. He pointed to “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” He spoke of what happened in his life. He is literally saying that his work, there by the river, was about making Jesus known.

As the faithful, we are called to make Jesus known. I would ask that we think about this work in a slightly different way. Christians often approach those who do not know as those who do not know, in other words, uninformed. What we might miss is in the saying of: “I did not know him,” they like John already do know. They exhibit the traits of one who knows Jesus, in their goodness and love. They are created in His image. We, in our work, just need to help them see the fulness of what they already know.

Peek-a-boo
We see You!

On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

We have used the term Theophany several times in our teaching during this Christmas season. Last week we talked about the heavenly revelation experienced by the humble shepherds. This week, all who stood along the banks of the Jordan would experience heavenly revelation, the showing of God as He is, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Some of this might be lost on us. We encounter heaven weekly in this church. We know God as He is. In our worship, our Eucharistic experience, we are pulled into heaven and all of eternity is made real, graspable, to us. God’s Son shows Himself and we commune with Him. We are drawn together, in Him and with all who receive Him here on earth and in the heavenly kingdom. We don’t ordinarily recognize the wonder of this moment, we don’t see it because Jesus is so available to us. It wasn’t always that way.

This revelation of God, His manifestation in a way discernable by the senses only occurred a few times in the Old Testament. God walked with and spoke to Adam and Eve in Eden. He spoke with Cain, Noah and his sons, and with Abraham and Sarah. Moses first encountered God in the burning bush. Later, at Sinai, He spoke with Moses face-to-face, as one would speak with his neighbor, in clear sight and not in riddles. Because of these encounters, Moses was visibly changed. When Moses retuned from his second encounter with God on the mountain the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.

Moses shined with the glory of God, and as Moses had been afraid before the burning bush, now the people were afraid. In fact, God’s glory was too much for them and they made Moses cover his face: when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face.

Imagine that – being so changed in the presence of God – that you actually retained that presence in your body and on your face. Yet, that is in fact what is happening right here! Today! To us!

God is revealed. He has come to us. We have met His glory. We should look in the mirror. Are our faces shining? Are we glowing with the radiance of the heavenly kingdom opened to us each week, right here?

We might say, I am not worthy. We might say, I cannot see it. We might say, not here, in upstate New York, in Schenectady. Yet here He is, revealed, real, present and active in our lives. It is not our worthiness, but His great love that makes us shine. Bruised, just smoldering? Perhaps, but here He is to ignite us and give us glory.

Let Me tell you
about My Father.

When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage.

All of Jesus’ coming, His life, His worship and prayer, His healings, His poverty, His message, and His life, death, and resurrection are about one thing – Jesus showing us the Father. Jesus plainly told us: Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. After hearing Jesus’ words today, how do we better get the Father?

The late workers were amazed by generosity. The early workers felt ‘cheated,’ as if something due them was taken away. But it really wasn’t specifically about any of that. Rather, Jesus uses all His parables and allusions to more fully describe His Father. He walks about the cities and countryside living a very particular way – to show us the life of the Father. He calls us to understand, to comprehend, to allow our hearts to be touched by the reality of the Father. He says – let Me show you My Dad. Get to know Him. He is amazing.

Again, this parable is not specifically about workers feeling cheated, nor a generous landowner with no business sense. It isn’t really about getting more than we deserve for our work. It is not, in any special way, about people who come to the faith in their youth versus those who come late in life, or toward the end of time.

This parable is about revelation. It is a look into the life of God – something formerly beyond understanding, and now revealed. In every word of this parable, Jesus is saying – let Me show you My Dad. I love him so much. I want you to know what He is like because He is so amazing.

Like the workers, we face a bit of a problem. Our understanding is often blocked because we let our minds get in the way of falling into the love of God. We let minor parts of parables become the reason for the parable, and we miss the revelation. We should ask ourselves, ‘What do I know about the Father that I didn’t know before?’

What we now know is that the Father’s love is so all encompassing, so magnificent, that in complete trust we can fall into Him no matter where we are in our lives, no matter what happened the day before, or a few minutes ago. We may have run head on into the Father’s love in our life and were changed by it. We may be experiencing it today for the first time, or the first time in a long time. We may still be waiting for that revelation. No matter, Jesus opened the opportunity for us – to know the Father and to fall into His love.