In it’s "Man on the Street" column,
a local newspaper asked everyday people
an everyday question:
When should Christmas lights be put away for storage?
Each had a different answer.
One man replied, "The day after Christmas."
Another said, "Within two or three days after Christmas."
A third replied, "Not until New Years."
A fourth responded, "I like the lights. Leave ‘em
out all winter."
The question is pretty open-ended.
When it comes to outdoor lighting
and all the trimming that surrounds
the holiday season,
we each have our individual preferences
--our own sense of decorum--
about when to pull the plug
on the outdoor bulbs.
But if we as church
were asked the same question
as the man or woman on the street,
our response would surprise not only retailers
but anyone who gives the months of November and December
exclusive rights to the Christmas season.
As the church,
we would say that today’s feast,
the Baptism of the Lord,
would be the right time
to put away our lights and trees
for another near twelve months of hibernation.
The poinsettias and manger scenes
that we still see in church today
are not due (we hope) to a lazy or procrastinating
art and environment committee!
They remind us that the Feast of the Incarnation
celebrates not only the birth of Jesus,
but also his entrance into the human family.
It’s a family that widens over time.
It begins with the Holy Family,
shines with the Epiphany,
and grows with the help of John the Baptist
and the waters of the Jordan.
We also know
that the Lord’s baptism
was no ordinary baptism
(if there ever were such a thing).
how do you christen Christ,
the source of baptism?
How do you make the head
of the church
a member of a church that is
yet to be born?
No doubt, these questions
were known to the disciples.
And they have been pondered over
by saint and sage alike
for as long as there have been Christians.
To be sure,
these and other questions
are more than mere technical difficulties.
They speak to the incarnational mystery
of how perfect God unites
perfectly with imperfect humanity.
Through this mystery
we realize that the baptism of the Lord
is less about sinfulness than it is about solidarity.
Emmanuel who is with us
is also God who is entirely for us.
Through this mystery
we also come to realize
that the formation of a church
makes sense only in light of
the proclamation of a kingdom.
(Here the preacher may wish to name those areas-- locally or globally-- where the kingdom is yet to be fulfilled. He or she may also want to propose concrete ways that the community may rededicate itself to justice and peace in this new year.)
the love of God has put a human face
on God’s beloved Son.
we celebrate that the human face of Christ
is being remade into our faces
and that God is declaring to us
that we are beloved sons and daughters.