Deep midwinter, the dark center of the year,
Wake, O earth, awake,
Out of the hills a star appears,
Here lies the way for pilgrim kings,
Three magi on an ancient path,
Black hours begin their journeyings.
Their star has risen in our hearts,
Empty thrones, abandoning fears,
Out on the hills their journey starts,
In dazzling darkness God appears.
~Judith Bingham “Epiphany”
…the scent of frankincense
arrives on the wind,
and I long
to breathe deeply,
to divine its trail.
But I know their uses
and cannot bring myself
to breathe deeply enough
whether what comes
is the fragrant welcoming
or simply covers the stench of death.
coming toward me,
is it swaddling they carry
~Jan Richardson from Night Visions –searching the shadows of Advent and Christmas
Unclench your fists
Hold out your hands.
Let us hold each other.
Thus is his Glory Manifest.
~Madeleine L’Engle “Epiphany”
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
~T.S. Eliot from “Journey of the Magi”
The Christmas season is a wrap, put away for another year.
However, our hearts are not so easily boxed up and stored as the decorations and ornaments of the season.
Our troubles and concerns go on; our frailty a daily reality.
We can be distracted with holidays for a few weeks, but our time here slips away ever more quickly.
The Christmas story is not just about light and birth and joy to the world.
It is about how swaddling clothes became a shroud that wrapped Him tight.
There is not one without the other.
God came to be with us;
Delivered so He could deliver.
Planted on and in the earth.
Born so He could die in our place
To leave the linen strips behind, neatly folded.
Christmas: an unwrapping that frees us forever.
Epiphany: the evidence the Seed has taken root in our hearts.