Jan 6 2013

Natural Epiphanies

RM343Today is Epiphany Sunday.   On this day the church pauses to remember a number of things.  First and foremost we remember that God made Himself known through the child born at Bethlehem (John 1:14).  The word “epiphany” refers to a revelation or manifestation.  There can be no denying that God is revealed most clearly in Jesus Christ but on this Sunday the Western church also recalls the visit the Magi or Wise Men paid to Bethlehem and how they presented the Christ Child with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2:9-12), while the Eastern church tends to emphasize Jesus’ baptism and how God affirmed His Son at that particular moment (Matthew 3:16-17).  Still others use Epiphany to focus on Jesus’ first miracle, the turning of water to wine at Cana (John 2:1-11).  Needless to say, there is much to remember or think about on Epiphany Sunday.

BB0153As I’ve thought about the biblical stories associated with Epiphany it has dawned on me that nature played a key role in each story.  It was a star (or some special astronomical phenomena) that led the Magi to the house where Jesus resided.  It was in the waters of the Jordan River that Jesus was baptized and received his Father’s affirmation.   At Cana it was ordinary water that was turned into the best wine anyone had tasted.  Does it surprise you that God used elements of His Creation in each example?  It shouldn’t.  As noted many times at this site, God often uses Creation to reveal Himself and His ways to us.

I believe for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear that there are natural epiphanies every single day.  Through God’s “Other Book” we are given countless opportunities to learn about and experience God.  The key here is, of course, having the “eyes to see” and the “ears to hear.”  Or perhaps I should say the key is using our “eyes to see” and “ears to hear” because most of us already have what we need to experience God through His Creation.  It’s just that some people don’t understand that they can find God there or they fail to take the time to look and listen.

chickadee-in-snow-283Since it is the beginning of a new year I want to encourage you (and myself) to make a special effort in the coming months to look and listen more carefully for God’s natural epiphanies.  Try to remember each day that God has much to say and much to teach us through the world that He has made.  Who knows what all we will see and hear if only we make a concerted effort to look and listen?  I only know that it will be good because behind Creation stands one incredible God who loves us all very much.  My suspicion is He has a lot of good news to share with us this year.  I look forward to finding out what that good news is.  Don’t you?


(I took the top image at Roan Mountain State Park in TN, the middle image at Big Bend National Park in TX, and the bottom image at my home in Pikeville, KY.)

Dec 18 2011

Seeing Creation After Bethlehem

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” John 1:14

Even though I was a history major in college I do not consider myself much of a historian.  Still, I do remember that at the time of Christ many Greeks believed that matter was evil.  Only things related to the spirit were considered good.  This philosophy affected many early Christians.  There was the belief among some early followers that the body and all things material were corrupt.  One can only imagine how those holding such a view looked at the natural world.

Today we can say with confidence that the material world is not evil.  We know from Genesis 1 that the world was created by God and that He declared it “good.”  But even if we didn’t have this passage, the birth of Christ also makes the same positive affirmation.  How so?  Simply by His willingness to take on human flesh in the Incarnation God affirms the goodness of the material world and Creation.

Although you rarely hear people declaring the material world evil these days there are still many who make a clear distinction between things sacred and secular.  After the coming of Christ I am not sure that even this is a valid distinction.  The coming of Jesus as Emmanuel—God with us—reveals the truth that the divine presence permeates all of the world.  As Emmanuel, God remains present in and around us.  This means that if we truly have eyes to see then we will discern His presence in Creation and in those around us.  Jesus himself said “the kingdom of God is in your midst.”  If we look closely we will see it all around us.

While I was in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a couple of weeks ago I had a chance to spend some time at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.  In additions to her delightful paintings, the museum displays a number of sayings from the famous artist.  O’Keeffe once said, “seeing takes time.”  When it comes to seeing the divine in this present world it does, in fact, take time.  But if we will be persistent in our looking and open to God’s wonderful surprises, we will discover that the God who made Himself known through the Child born in Bethlehem is still very much in our midst.


(I took the two pictures above on my recent trip to New Mexico.)