The first Friday reflection of 2021. We hope that these short reflections act as a point of spiritual focus, enabling a moment of quiet thought and prayer.
Jill Baker lives in Glasgow and is a local preacher in the Strathclyde circuit. A former Vice-President of the Conference, she is currently the Chair of the Methodist Council and a keen leader of pilgrimages (when restrictions allow).
As we strip our homes of decorations and accept that January is now upon us and the 12 days of Christmas are over, I sometimes feel a sense of gloom. To counter this, I remind myself that we still have good reason to celebrate, for this is the season of Epiphany – which can be extended right through to Candlemas on 2nd February. If (in pre-Covid days) you have travelled in parts of Europe at this time of year you will have seen crib scenes left on display for the full 40 days of the Christmas season – I am all in favour of that!
In early January 2015 I went on pilgrimage with my sister and niece from Durham to Lindisfarne – an exhilarating expedition with breathtakingly beautiful skies, and bone-numbingly cold water for the crossing of the Pilgrim Path! On the eve of our walk, also the Eve of Epiphany, we attended Evensong in Durham Cathedral. In his message the then Dean, Michael Sadgrove, spoke of Epiphany as ‘not the end of Christmas, but the enlarging of it’. What a wonderful concept, which has stayed with me ever since.
As we muse on the arrival in Bethlehem of a number of exotic visitors – Magicians? Astrologers? Philosophers? – we must look beyond the familiarity of these characters and recognise their complete unsuitability to play any part in the story at all! Divination is expressly forbidden in the Torah (Deuteronomy 18:10 for example) and yet these are the ones who recognise the significance of the coming of Christ, while the puppet King Herod is so self-obsessed he can only see threat and is consumed with jealousy and the need to destroy what he cannot, or dare not, embrace.
So as I look into 2021 – and who knows what sort of year this will be, after the turmoil of 2020 – I hope I can do so with enlarged vision, without prejudice and that I will pay attention to the daily epiphanies in which God is revealed in the unexpected, the unlikely and sometimes the downright unsuitable!
‘There’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea;
there’s a kindness in his justice which is more than liberty.’
Jesus of the manger, I offer you the Gold of my whole life, my love, my strength,
Jesus of the cross, I offer you the Myrrh of my doubts, my failures, my death,
Jesus of the empty tomb, I offer you the Frankincense of my awe and my worship.
Take these gifts and break them to the world
through your own life, death and love. Amen.