Weekly Blog - Angela Hughes - Epiphany 2023
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Posted on: 11th January 2023
Over the years as a church leader, I have grown to appreciate the guidance of set lectionary readings – not as cast in stone never to be changed, but rather as a challenge.
So it was then, that on the first day of 2023 (a Sunday) I found myself wondering about Matthew’s Christmas story (chapter 2). Was this really what we wanted to hear as we looked forward to the coming year? Wasn’t life already quite bleak? We had been cheered by Luke’s story of angels and song, of light and joy – of the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger – could we not leave it there? Could we not move on to the season of Epiphany when little by little the identity and purpose of Jesus is revealed to us?
And yet – how important that we set the birth of the Christ Child into a bigger context if we are to understand it more fully.
And so I moved on beyond the light of Luke to Matthew’s darker tale of pain, intrigue, deception and fear – which surely resonates for us as we wonder what the future holds.
Here we discover political tyranny, senseless mass killing, and the continual threat of violence to the vulnerable Christ Child – and yet – underlying the pain - we discover God’s faithfulness and Joseph’s obedience and recognise that God has more to show us.
King Herod feared that this baby would be the long-awaited Messiah. He knew that if the people start following a Messiah, they will stop bowing down to the ruling authorities. And so - Herod clings to his throne – his need to rule is simple, brutal, and chilling.
Impossible not to reflect on the past year 2022:
unrelenting war in the Ukraine,
political tensions – at home and abroad
climate change - drought – floods – storms – heart-breaking poverty
economic and humanitarian crises across the world.
oppression and cruelty
the crash of our own economy with many facing hardship
refugees taking such incredible risks to keep their families safe.
Globally but also personally, we all know both light and dark in our lives; look back at your past year - life is fragile, we are all vulnerable – and I wonder, what is it that we really need? Day by day, week by week, year on year.
Could it be the baby, who lived to be a man whose life and love for all people took him to death on a Roman Cross, but who overcame death bringing us resurrection life and deep hope? The deep hope at the heart of our faith that we are called to live and share?
We may then realise that Christmas is a beginning not an ending. The celebration isn’t all over it is just beginning. The Gospel of Christ is about life in a real world – a world which knows all about murderous political leaders, dead children, weeping mothers.
What could be more relevant than that as we move into another year? May it bring us peace whatever our situation – peace to embrace, live and share.
Angela Hughes, Reverend, Stainbeck United Reformed Church.