Spiritual Marathon

Archive for Epiphany

Spiritual Marathon

A Blogpost from Lindsey Goodyear

Happy New Year!  It’s that time, again.  Time for new beginnings, getting life in order, and an official New Year’s resolution.  My resolution is the same as it is most years…get in better shape!  Most every year, I vow to eat better, run more, and reach a certain number on the scale by a certain set date.  I know if I put everything else aside, not give into temptation, and workout like crazy, those few extra pounds will be gone in no time.  The New Year starts fast and furious with clean eating and exercise and starts to peter out around the end of January.  My eating returns to its normal mostly healthy (but could be better) self, and the running returns to two times a week.  I stay this way for most of the year and start all over again the following January.  It’s frustrating, to say the least, but a trip to Messy Church has me thinking that the change to my body actually starts in my head, and not in my kitchen.

i stock. Used with permission

Last Saturday we sat through a fun, interactive, Messy explanation of Epiphany (the manifestation of God to the world through His son, Jesus Christ). It was exciting to see my children realize that, despite the fact that the presents have all been opened, Christmas does not end on December 25. We learned about the 12 days between Christmas and Epiphany and also learned some of the ways people celebrate Epiphany in other countries. Although it was interesting, I have to admit that my mind began to wander while sitting in that pew. Why don’t my kids know about Epiphany? Why aren’t we talking about the birth of Jesus and the significance of God’s gift to us after the lights come down and the tree is thrown out? We work vigorously through the holiday season drilling into them that “Jesus is the reason for the season”, but the second the stockings come down, it’s back to life as usual. Don’t worry, God, we will see you again next December!

From Lindsey’s Messy Church

This isn’t to say we don’t bring up God at all.  We pray as a family and we attend Messy Church…ahem…once a month.  Sigh.  Then it hits me.  The reason my kids don’t know about Epiphany is because I approach my relationship with God, the same way I approach my resolutions.  Fast and furious until I burn out.  For us, Christmas is shopping, Messy Church, “don’t forget about Jesus”, a school craft, letters, “don’t forget about Jesus!”, nativity story, Christmas goodies, “don’t forget about Jesus!”, parties, caroling, and, oh yeah, did we mention Jesus?  By the time Epiphany rolls around, I’ve made up my mind that my due diligence for my kids, when it comes to God, has already been met.  Our once a month trip to Messy Church and nightly prayers will take care of the rest until the next holiday season. 

All of this leaves me wondering what would happen if I took a beat and just slowed down.  What if my New Year’s resolution was not to hit a certain number on the scale by a certain time but rather to get healthy and stay that way for life.  It would require a change in my thought process.  It won’t be instant gratification but a life commitment.  Now, what if I did the same thing with God?  Instead of working hard just once a year to prove that my relationship with God is still on point, I make a commitment to work on my relationship with Him daily and turn it into a life goal for me and my family, and skip the fast and furious recap next year.

Spiritual Marathon

It won’t be easy, but most resolutions are put into place because there is a need for change somewhere in your life.  And, yes, change is hard.  But, your relationship with God doesn’t have to be.  It’s fantastic to give back and be more Christ-like during the holidays but the amount of effort we put in during that month may not be sustainable year around.  Take it slow.  Look at the resolutions in your life, whatever they may be, as a marathon, not a race.  If we take the time to nurture the relationship we have with God for the long haul, we can ditch the madness we create playing catch up, and instead enjoy a more realistic, viable, and more meaningful link to our beloved savior.          

Lindsey Goodyear
Huntington Beach, CA
Reach her at lindseygoodyear@gmail.com

Follow the Star

A blog-post by Casey Cross

“They set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.” Matthew 2:9

When I think about those wise ones who followed the star, I think about leadership. The best teachers are life-long learners. The best leaders know how to follow others. I always find it interesting that when we are most purely ourselves, living out of our gifts, we end up modeling for others and becoming leaders without even trying. This is the case with those who followed the star. Was it curiosity or pure scholarship that brought the Magi on such a journey?

We do not know a lot about these astrologers. We only know that they were doing their thing – observing the stars. Little did they know, they would have their own followers, thousands of years later. We who hear and celebrate the story of Jesus’ birth, follow the wise men on their journey, first to King Herod, and finally to the home where Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were staying. By joining them on their journey, we are reminded once again where God is found, among the outsiders rather than the elite.

Christmas is not just an opportunity to say, “Happy birthday Jesus!” It is also an opportunity to welcome Jesus into our world, imperfect though it is, as well as into our hearts.

These wise men were also on a journey of hospitality. On their way to meet Jesus, bringing gifts, and building new relationships are at the heart of hospitality. With their presence, they welcomed Jesus to earth. Christmas is not just an opportunity to say, “Happy birthday Jesus!” It is also an opportunity to welcome Jesus into our world, imperfect though it is, as well as into our hearts.

We can learn a lot from these wise men on their journey. In a way, it was a journey of proclamation, to show homage to the king of the Jews. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the historical reference to the word homage is in reference to making a public acknowledgement of allegiance to one’s Lord. By showing homage, these travelers publically claimed the king of the Jews their personal lord. How do we translate this homage to our celebration of Christ’s birth every year? Do we use this holy-day as an opportunity to publically name Jesus our Lord and Savior, or do we spend too much time focusing on the gifts and minutiae of creating a “perfect” day?

As we welcome one another to our space, activities, celebration, and meal, we build connections and experience the incarnate Christ among us.

I see leadership, homage, and hospitality celebrated in the organization of Messy Church. As we welcome one another to our space, activities, celebration, and meal, we build connections and experience the incarnate Christ among us. We are all both learners and teachers. Everyone has an opportunity to share in a piece of the story, share their perspectives, life experiences, and gifts. We share a meal together, growing in our relationships as well as our faith. We join the journey together; following the promises of God like the wise ones followed the star, to the place where it all comes together, in Jesus the Christ. God with us, Emmanuel.

Casey Cross serves on the Messy Church USA Board of Directors. She is the
Young Disciples Director of Hope Lutheran Church in Eagle, ID, where she has led the start of the first Messy Church in Idaho.