We have come to the end of the Season of Epiphany that began on January 6th with the story of the visit of the wise men to Bethlehem and the baby Jesus. I wrote a column then about how Epiphany is not only a season for reflecting on what it means that the light of Christ had come into the world, but what it has meant that the light of Christ has gone out into the world. Lessons during the season from the New Testament illuminated what Jesus said and did that bore the light into the world beyond the people of Israel, and how his followers did the same throughout the entire Roman Empire. Even readings from the Hebrew Scriptures demonstrated God’s saving love for foreigners, even enemies of Israel.
The suggestion posed at the start of the season was to invest time in asking ourselves how well we have continued bearing the light of Christ in our own daily lives. Well, here we are, the season has ended. Lent is upon us. Amidst COVID and the death of over 900,000 Americans, in what ways did you bear the light of Christ? Amidst a booming economy accompanied by unwanted inflation, in what ways did you bear the light of Christ in your daily life? Amidst a European war, where was the light of Christ in your daily life? Amongst strangers and neighbors who have chosen to follow crackpot conspiracies that challenge the foundations of our democracy, where was the light of Christ in your daily life? How well did you do?
If you are like me, probably not all that well. Daily life got in the way. What was said in early January soon became forgotten. Anxieties, complacency, selfishness, the usual human traits, have a way of submerging disciplined reflection about how we have borne the light of Christ.
Lent is here. Unlike the Feast of Epiphany, the services for Ash Wednesday call us to observe a holy Lent by a more intentional time of self examination. Maybe a good lenten discipline this year would be to set aside a time each day to reflect on what it means to you in your life to be a follower of Jesus Christ who bears the light of Christ in your own way, in the place where you are, in the things you ordinarily do.
There is a world of difference between claiming to have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior and following Jesus as a disciple bearing God’s light as one who loves unliked neighbors, alien neighbors, even enemy neighbors. It is a way of nonviolence in a violent world. It is a way of peace in a world bent on war. It is a way of advocating for godly justice, as did ethical prophets like Amos and Isaiah, even when ungodly justice is the norm of society.
God does not expect perfection. If that were possible, there would have been no need for God’s Word made flesh to be born. We are not a people, contrary to Calvin, utterly depraved, but we are erratic people of good intention easily distracted, inconsistent in our discipleship, with occasional doubts about how much to trust Jesus.
That’s not a condemnation, it’s just a reality, but “God so Loved the world…” We are to love as Jesus loves us in spite of our weaknesses. Nevertheless, we can give a little intentional thought to doing better than we have.
Lent is only 40 days, not counting Sundays. It’s not too much to ask that some small part of each day in Lent be dedicated to reflection on what it means to you in your ordinary life to bear the light of Christ. I will give it a try. Please join me.