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?

–Chuck

(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.)


Jan 1 2012

“Tuning In” in 2012

“We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”  Matthew 2:2

On this first Sunday of 2012 many churches turned their focus to the role of the Magi and their coming to honor the Christ Child.  The Wise Men certainly play a central role in the Christmas story, as does the star that led them to Bethlehem.  Over the years I’ve heard people say the “star” might have been a comet or perhaps a supernova.  Perhaps we’ll never know for sure but it is worth noting that God used a part of His Creation—whatever it was—to lead the Magi to their wondrous encounter with the child Jesus.  That God did this should not surprise us at all; throughout the Scriptures we find God using various natural phenomena to lead people in His direction.

The list of natural things God has used to lead people to Himself is long and varied.  On that list you would find things like a burning bush, a flood, clouds, lightning, earthquakes, a giant fish, a donkey, and mountains.  From the beginning of time to the present moment God has been using His Creation to guide people in His direction.  It is interesting to note that even in biblical times not everyone grasped the significance of what was going on.  God was speaking through what He had made, some just failed to notice.

This makes me wonder how often we miss God’s messages or His attempts to move us in His direction through Creation.   I suspect it happens far more often than we realize.  If we want to see and know God better it would help us to pay more attention to what’s going on around us in the world.  George Washington Carver once said, “Nature is an unlimited broadcasting station through which God speaks to us every hour—if we will only tune in.”  A good New Year’s resolution we might all make is to “tune in” more frequently in the coming year.  Doing so will not only make us wise men and women but will also lead to a very happy and blessed New Year.  That is certainly my wish for you!

–Chuck

(I took the top image at Myakka State Park in Florida.  The middle image is a humpback whale fluke I took in Alaska.  The bottom image shows a mountain I photographed at Banff National Park in Canada.)