Scripture: Isaiah 61.1
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners.

Reflection: Christmas is Upside Down :: Epiphany
By John Tillman

There are a good many things about the way we celebrate Christmas in Western cultures that are upside down from a historical context.

We engage in a fast-paced litany of parties, activities, feasts, and gift giving during Advent, which is traditionally a time of contemplation, of prayer, and of identifying with our brokenness and need for Christ.

The actual 12 days of Christmas, leading to Epiphany should be a season of celebration, feasting, parties, and joyful community—yet our modern culture turns inward, focusing on self-improvement, and moralistic New Year’s resolutions. Many churches even engage in fasts or “cleanses” during this time of year. Many believers are literally fasting when the church historically has always feasted, celebrating the abundance of Christ.

This is not all bad. Historical celebrations of the church have always been keyed to the culture. There is value in seeing a trend of culture (such as the wave of self-improvement that dominates January) and attempting to steer that cultural trend into a valuable spiritual practice, such as fasting, prayer, and reflection. But there is also value in countering the culture—of zigging when they zag.

Epiphany means manifestation and refers to Christ being “revealed” to the entire world—not just Israel. In this season we will examine the Epiphany or the “revealing” of Christ and the implications of the incarnation by studying Christ’s first expository sermon in which he revealed his identity, proclaimed his destiny, and which was also the occasion of the first attempt to violently take his life as an adult.

As Christ and Saint Stephen, whose life and martyrdom the church celebrates today, can tell you, if they try to kill you after your sermon, you probably preached the Gospel. So we will look closely at what Christ said that day in Nazareth and what it means for us.

For Christ’s declaration in Nazareth must echo through each of us. The Spirit of the Lord that was upon him, longs to manifest himself in us. The Spirit that overshadowed Mary and grew Christ within her body, longs to birth Christ to the world through our actions. May we be the Lord’s servant as she was. May we manifest Christ. May we participate in his Epiphany to our world.

The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and to be born of a pure virgin: Grant that I, who have been born again and made your child by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through my Lord Jesus Christ, to whom with you and the same Spirit be honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.

– From Christmastide: Prayers for Advent Through Epiphany from The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 31 (Listen – 4:20)
Revelation 17 (Listen – 3:19)