The Year of Our Lord (Anno Domini) 2012

As we step in the New Year I wish to challenge the assumption of 2012 as being in the “Common Era” – C.E.  Please don’t misunderstand.  As a matter of courtesy and the use of the phrase “C.E.” by Christians with others is often a matter of politeness and courtesy.  It is appropriate. And yet, among those who are Christ followers, it is not adequate or even accurate.  To be a Christ follower is live the conviction that this is the year of our Lord – Anno Domini – 2012. The Christmas story isn’t over.  It is barely beginning.  As Adam Hamilton states in The Journey, “Something astounding had begun in the cave in Bethlehem – yet something that would not be completed until this child walked out of another cave thirty-three years later, following his crucifixion” (p. 118). My new year opens in Austin with the other active bishops of the South Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church.  Our TMF bishops group (called “The Conclave”) gathers traditionally the first week of the New Year. Together we are wrestling with issues of leadership and direction facing us and the church in this new year of our Lord. More significantly (far more significantly!), January 6th is Epiphany Day.  In search of the real spirit of Christmas, the Holy Spirit of God, we are led not just to Christmas but into the new year.  Like the wise persons of old, what we must embrace is the importance of the continuing search for Christ in our lives.  With those gentile pagans, we are led to embrace the great truth that God is for all!  Ephipany Day (the light to the gentiles) focuses us on the gift and its surprising nature. Notice I said gift not gifts.  So often we focus on the material gifts the wise men bring – gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  These were stupendous gifts, no doubt about it.  But, they were not the gift.  The Bible tells us, "On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh" (Matthew 2:11).  “The greatest gift they brought was their devotion: their willingness to endure whatever it took and to look as long as it took to find what God had promised them through the sign.  Their physical gifts paled in comparison. . . . What greater gift can we bring to Christ than our commitment to find Him no matter what the cost, and when we have found Him, to worship Him?" (Dan Schaeffer, In Search of the Real Spirit of Christmas, pp. 162, 163). The search for the real spirit of Christmas will always find its conclusion in such homage, such worship.  Here lies the "epiphany" of God: 1) To seek Christ constantly in all our living, 2) to embrace Christ who embraces all in sharing His love, and 3) to offer Him our unstinting worship. Gazing at the stars, truly wise men beckon us on a journey of faith that experiences the joy of worshiping Christ, offering Him our treasure, and sharing His love who those who do not yet have the privilege of knowing Him. May such a blessing be yours in this year of the Lord, 2012.