Jeremiah 31:7-14 and John 1:1-5, 14-18
First Presbyterian Church Valdosta
Jane Shelton; January 5, 2020
Today is Epiphany Sunday.
Epiphany is the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi.
On this Epiphany Sunday, may we remember the words of John the Baptist who testified to the light of life which came into being in the birth of Jesus, who God sent to be the light of all people.
Might we remember that The Law was given to us through Moses, yet grace and truth through Jesus Christ.
Jesus became the Word in flesh.
Jesus made God known to us, and it is through Jesus Christ that we know God, and not by the law.
In a letter to his friend, Mrs. Johnson, as a reflection on John 1:1, C.S. Lewis wrote
“And The Word Was God”:
- S. Lewis said,
“It is Christ Himself, not the Bible, who is the true word of God.
The Bible, read in the right spirit and with the guidance of good teachers, will bring us to Him.
When it becomes really necessary (i.e., for our spiritual life, not for controversy or curiosity) to know whether a particular passage is rightly translated or is Myth (but of course Myth specially chosen by God from among countless Myths to carry a spiritual truth) or history, we shall no doubt be guided to the right answer.
But we must not use the Bible (our fathers too often did) as a sort of Encyclopedia out of which texts (isolated from their context and not read without attention to the whole nature & purport of the books in which they occur) can be taken for use as weapons.”
So it is as C.S. Lewis wrote, “It is Christ himself, not the Bible, who is the Word of God…”
So I submit to you today that it is Jesus who is the still the Living Word among us. Jesus, the light we continue to follow into this new year.
In our first reading this morning, we find a list of ways to live into the truth of the light of Jesus on our journey this year.
Perhaps we might even consider them as 2020 Resolutions from the Lord as written by Jeremiah:
Thus says the Lord, your New Year’s Resolution is to:
Sing aloud with gladness.
Proclaim the goodness of the Lord.
Give Praises to the Lord.
Come with weeping and give consolation.
Lead others to the Lord.
Walk by brooks of water in a straight path in which you will not stumble.
Hear the Word of the Lord and declare it.
Be radiant over the goodness of the Lord – grain, wine, oil, young flock and herd.
Rejoice in dance and be merry!
Turn mourning into joy!
Receive comfort and gladness for sorry.
Be satisfied with the Lord’s bounty.
And when we do these things, “your life shall become like a watered garden and you will never languish again.”
In these words of Jeremiah is the Word of God and the Word that is Jesus Christ in all his truth and grace and mercy for us.
As this is Epiphany Sunday, may we follow the light of Jesus the way the magi followed the light of the Star of Bethlehem so that we find Jesus throughout this new year.
Kristin Stroble, a Presbyterian Pastor in Youngstown, Ohio, wrote in an article about a practice she has come to share with her congregation on Epiphany Sunday.
A Sunday when we remember the star that led the magi to Jesus.
Rather than encouraging resolutions for the New Year that often fail and make us feel guilty, she provides her congregation with “Star Words.”
Star Words are words written on a star shaped paper that we receive as a gift from God to help us remember to practice through the new year.
Words such as restraint, joy, and courage.
We might receive the word restraint as a gift to help us remember to hold back on the donuts on the breakfast table on Sunday morning, or restraint from allowing other things that keep us from making good choices such as holding back on second helpings or choices that allow us to omit exercise when we should become better caretakers of our bodies.
Or perhaps we receive the word joy to help us to remember to receive the gift of joy in all circumstances in our life, or as a reminder that we have joy because we belong to God.
Maybe the word we receive as a gift is courage.
Courage to live through difficult times, courage to face another day when dealing with depression, or courage to live through a time of unwanted illness and treatments, or the loss of a loved one.
Courage to recognize that we do not walk alone, but with one that is always there walking with us.
Star Words remind us that God sent his Son, Jesus as the Word in flesh to bring us truth and grace to share with ALL.
Pastor Stroble wrote that in the year that followed, a coffee reception was prepared following worship, and she was amazed at her congregation’s sharing of experiences with each other, as they shared their journey over the past year with the gift of their Star Words.
With their Star Words, they had replaced the negative feelings of failure and guilt of failed resolutions with positive reflection of the word they had received as a gift.
They were able to share their results of how they had followed their star daily, and how they found Jesus waiting to share his truth and grace in their journey.
Today, I have prepared for all of you a Star Word.
May you receive your word as a gift from God as we follow the Star of Jesus today.
I hope that you will place your word where you can see it each day so that it can be a reminder of your journey to Jesus as he waits our arrival again and again in all his glory.
I invite those joining us via live stream to take a moment during our time of silent reflection and thoughtfully receive a Star Word for yourself.
As we receive these gifts, may we also follow the light of Jesus into this New Year so that we shine brightly like the Star of Bethlehem, so that others may be led to the light of Jesus, just as the magi were led all those years ago.
*Cover Art by Ira Thomas; used by permission