NEW SERIES: A YEAR FOR CHANGE
Happy New Year to you all!
As 2023 gets underway, what are your hopes, dreams and expectations? Have you embarked on a new fitness regime, written up your mid and long-term goals, and enrolled in a life-enhancing course? Or taking a more placid approach, are you waiting to see how things pan out, before making commitments? Alternatively, perhaps you are just hanging on by your fingernails, until life gets better?
Whatever your response to the arrival of 2023, it can be a year for change, whatever your circumstances—the changes which come through walking more profoundly with Jesus.
Today, many Christians are celebrating Epiphany, which marks the visit of the Magi from the east to worship the young child, Jesus. Epiphany means ‘manifestation’, and we read in this story of mysterious strangers looking for a King, and finding Him not in a palace, but in a common household; not among the rich and high-ranking, but the child of ordinary parents, unknown in the bustling town. There was no fanfare on this occasion, no angelic choir, no first century paparazzi camped outside the door; there were no crowds, stirring music or celebrity endorsements beckoning them, however, in the most ordinary of settings they found the Presence of God.
Jerusalem was unaware; the Messiah, when He came, would surely be born in state and presented with pomp and ceremony in the Temple. And was impossible that He would be born without the religious authorities being duly informed! But in fact, God slipped in quietly at dead of night; and only those who had 'eyes to see' encountered Him.
Going on pre-conceived ideas of where a new king would be found, and looking in the wrong place, the wise men nearly missed Him; fortunately, they were alert to the signpost God had put in front of them and so found their heart’s desire. It is salutary that the star was there for all to see, yet that humble house was not thronging with people come to pay homage.
Many Christians travel the world, following well-known speakers, looking for anointed meetings, or the latest ‘breakout’ of the Holy Spirit—and at times I have been thoroughly blessed by such gatherings, however…
God often still comes quietly, slipping in to the commonplace and obscure. While we still look for Him in the midst of the religious, the large and impressive, the polished and the organised, He sneaks in, unannounced, except by a sparkling heart. That longed-for encounter can be often be found much closer to home—not just in the rarefied atmosphere of Christian meetings—but in the everyday, commonplace stuff of life. Maybe we can have our own ‘epiphanies’ in our homes, our workplaces, walking the dog, or on the school run?
Whatever else we pray for in 2023, let’s pray for a year of revelation; that we find Christ in all circumstances, not just at ‘church’, but in the familiar, in the everyday—and in the unusual. Let’s lay down our pre-conceived ideas of how He reveals Himself, and instead become alert to the signs of His presence.
Star-gazing was normal for the Magi, following a star was not. Following a star was a crazy idea—no one had ever done it before—but it led to a wonderful encounter. It was a risk, leaving home, travelling to a strange country, one where, as scorned Gentiles, they would not be welcomed. And perhaps they also had to deal with the censure of friends and neighbours from their own locality. Having taken the risk, however, I doubt their lives were ever the same again.
Let’s be inspired: let’s also be people who see the signposts in our ‘normal’—and then think outside the box. Let’s be willing this year to take risks in order to pursue His presence with passion. The Lord will never conform to our small parameters, so let’s not try to restrict Him (or ourselves) to our idea of how things should be, but be willing to have our ideas stretched. Let’s be changed as we encounter Him in all sorts of places...
NEXT WEEK: THE ONLY WAY TO AN ENCOUNTER
Change your basis of approach...
GET IN TOUCH!
[Photo credits: Inbal Malca (camels); Diego (shooting star); John Schnobrich (typewriter) @ Unsplash, with thanks]
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