Three people from Mennonite Mission Network's Training and Resources department, reflect on Epiphany. Here, the director, Joani Miller, contemplates why God's redemption comes from the most unimaginable, messy places. Also read: God's light changes us, written by Ann Jacobs, a specialist in urban and African American ministries, and What does Epiphany teach us about mission?, written by Joe Sawatzky, a specialist in mission education.
The Christmas stories that I hear year after year strike me differently each time. This year, I could not hear the poetic phrases without imagining the messy reality that lay underneath. Really, "messy" is too mild of a word.
The world Jesus entered into sounds like a nightmare, led by a man who was so driven by fear that he chose murder as his first response to a threat to his power.
"Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men." — Matthew 2:16 (ESV)
How many times have I heard these words and not considered the reality of the parents who held their babies tight, facing the unimaginable?
Then, there was the pregnant virgin, her tentative and confused fiance, the difficult travel conditions and the birth in a stable. If this was not enough, the couple faced judgment on their unthinkably complicated lives.
From society's judgment of Joseph and Mary, my mind segues to the many times I've heard people judging God. "Why would the omnipotent, omnipresent, creator God of love allow us to suffer?"
This year, the wonder of the word causes me to ask why God chose to have God's beloved son born into a time of terrible and unthinkable suffering and messiness, and then, God expect this helpless baby to redeem the world. Why choose this for the context to this story?
The why is in the star, I think.
I see those gentile wise men walking in their fine robes, carrying their best gifts — dirty, tired … and believing.
They have belief and hope, amid human mess.
This year, I hear our creator God saying, "Yes, I know the messiness. I see yours. Look up and see the star. Believe. Bring your best to the most unlikely situations. In the terrible and unimaginable, follow the star. Hope. I AM."
The star still shines bright.