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Gary's Faith Walk

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Is Christmas over at your house?

Is Christmas over for you? Oh, I understand. The flurry of shopping is finished. The bags of discarded wrapping paper have long made their way to the curbside or the dump. And, well, perhaps the Christmas tree is even lying outside in the snow or disassembled in a box. But, is Christmas really over for you?

At Christmas Eve services around the globe, tens of millions listened attentively to the nativity story, the story of the birth of Jesus. Tens of millions watched children reenact the story as part of the worship service: Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus (whether a doll or a squirming newborn), shepherds, accompanying sheep, perhaps even a camel and a donkey. The story from the gospel of Luke creates ways to engage the entire family. But, our celebration can move far beyond a Christmas pageant and personal gift giving if we allow it.

The season of Christmas, the 12 days of Christmas, can continue. This year, Epiphany, is celebrated by western Christians on or near Wednesday, January 6. From the gospel of Matthew, it is the day to mark the arrival from afar of the magi, the three kings, the wise men who paid homage to the newborn king. For these three pilgrims the journey had been long and difficult. Coming from the east, they had likely battled wind and sand, barren desert, perhaps even marauding bandits. Leaving behind their comfort, positions, and prestige, their faith carried them across the desert until they could witness the new beginning manifest in the baby Jesus.

In my faith walk, the fullness of the season and these January days mean Christmas is not over. Indeed, the annual renewal of hope which flows from candlelit worship on Christmas Eve is just the beginning. I need that renewal, but I also need the movement forward through the church year. Epiphany, marking the arrival of the magi, reminds me that the way is difficult, that I too will journey through life’s desert places to follow a star. I am reminded that the gift will not be found in the riches of a royal palace, but in the simplicity of common places where the night sky can be seen and animals surround.  I am reminded that leaving ways of the past behind are a requirement to receive fully the gift of Christmas. 

In our family, our youngest son sets out the crèche each year. It is a hand carved assembly of figures created by a Russian woodcarver from a city northeast of Moscow. The magi never join the shepherds and animals as the crèche is brought out of its tin. This year the magi remained far away behind a picture frame on a bookshelf. Slowly as the days flow beyond December 25, they inch their way along the window sill, then to the edge of the piano, and finally on Epiphany they too join the joyous scene. 

The movement of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem, of the magi across the desert, of the holy family to Egypt all reminds me that spiritual journey is ongoing. It is not fixed in a single day, in a single prayer, in a single year. My journey continues accompanied by divine presence and encouraged by others who are also following the star. 

May your journey in 2010 be blessed!

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Author info

Gary Payton Gary Payton is on a Faith Walk that takes him to Russia, Eastern Europe and Sandpoint, Idaho

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