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Message from Our Pastor

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Pastor Hoffman’s homily for January 5, 2020. Relevant text:  John 1: 1-18.

Epiphany celebrates the arrival of the visitors from the far east to the holy family. We don’t know for sure how many visitors there were. I suppose we don’t even know for sure if they were wise, except the fact that they were able to read the heavens and follow a star to the feet of Jesus. There they knelt down and presented their royal gifts.

These visitors are important because they are not Jewish. Again, it’s an assumption we make given that they came from the far east. And, the fact they are not Jewish is important because their visitation demonstrates that Jesus was born to be Lord and King of all people, male, female, Jew, Gentile, rich, poor, straight, gay. 

Jesus was born to save us all. In a nutshell, that is pretty much what Epiphany is about. 

But it was a different nutshell on an early morning last week, when this sermon flew into my head. I was thinking about the darkness of the world, and was particularly troubled by the stabbings in the rabbi’s house in New York. 

There isn’t a day that goes by anymore for which the news does not report at least one stabbing, shooting, suicide bomber, car bomb, hit and run, assassination or other violent death. Sometimes it’s one person and sometimes it’s a crowd. 

It happens everywhere, in movie theaters, shopping malls, schools, on the street, at outdoor concerts and cafes, funerals, military bases, along marathon finish lines, and in places of worship. There is no discrimination. Churches, temples, synagogues and mosques have all been attacked, even congregations that meet in homes.

Sometimes my heart aches with grief, so much so, that I plead with God for the darkness to end. It was while feeling overwhelmed by the pervading darkness that I saw them – the stars. 

The first star was an ordinary yellow star, like we all learned to make as children. It was burning steadily in the dark sky. And I remembered the words from John’s gospel: “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

The darkness did not, does not, cannot, overcome it. No matter how dark things get, there will always be a light on to guide us home. That’s a New Year’s good news item to carry with us if ever I heard one.

There was also another star that came to mind that early morning. This one’s an image that can be grasped only if you see it, so I need six volunteers—three that can kneel on the ground, and more importantly get back up again. I first saw it the week of Christmas and it was one of those pictures that spokes a thousand words because there were no words. And it speaks to us today because today is Epiphany and it is a star; because it is a star of light shining in an otherwise dark night; because the Star of David reminds us both of our brothers and sisters who continue to be persecuted because of their faith and the Jewish descendent of David, Jesus, who was born to save us by grace through faith. 

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The wise men get a lot of attention, but this year, it’s all about the star, the star of Bethlehem that shone in the night sky to identify where a baby slept in a manger; the star that came into being in whom there was life, and that life that was the light of all people. 

That light still shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not ever overcome it. This is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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