By late September every year, Christians start posting reactions on Facebook and Twitter about something that is making less and less sense to me every year. They react to the consumeristic reality of Christmas as stores line their shelves with Christmas decorations weeks before Halloween (sorry, I meant Reformation Day!).
But as I understand Christmas more fully, I’ve come to see it as a season—a lengthy season—and not a single day. I’ve come to recognize that the decorations are, in reality, months late. Because the truth of the matter is, the incarnation of Jesus Christ began historically and begins for us with the celebration of the Annunciation, the day that the angel Gabriel announced that Mary was with child. So the Annunciation is the earliest bookend of the season of Christmas.
As the Church, we then move through the season of expectation and longing as we await the coming of the Lord during Advent. Some of us light an Advent wreath to mark those weeks; some of us simply begin to sing Christmas hymns as a way of welcoming the season.
Four weeks of inching toward Christmas. But by then, we’re all caught up in the consumeristic mentality that we snarled at on Facebook just weeks before. And on one day, with joyful exuberance, on the single day we call “Christmas,” we join our voices with millions of other Christians who sing with festal praise Handel’s Messiah, the “Hallelujah Chorus!” Yet, in less than 24 hours—not one day following December 25th!—all is lost. All is back to normal and “Christmas” is a bygone memory, as trash pails overflow with wrapping paper and old items are replaced by new gifts. The only other remnant is the Christmas dinner leftovers, for a day or two.
But wait! What about the other bookend? What about Epiphany? Given the Church of the Lutheran Brethren’s evangelical and Lutheran heritage, we may want to admit that the season of Epiphany (which begins on January 6, the twelfth day of Christmas) is the goal, the endpoint, of the Christmas season. In other words, Epiphany is the most important part of the Christmas season.
Here’s why: What happened on that first Epiphany? Well, the world was introduced to its true King and Messiah when the Magi came to pay homage to the baby Jesus. Therefore, Epiphany is the beginning of the evangelical witness, the beginning of the gospel being declared to the nations. And that’s the reasoning behind Epiphany Lutheran Church’s name choice—that we bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world, because the world is in New York City.
During my first week in the field, I had evangelistic conversations with people from all different backgrounds: Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and radical secularists. Again, this all took place in my first week! I sat down, sipped coffee with, and explained the gospel message to the nations, one by one. Through Epiphany Lutheran Church’s mission in New York City, the CLB has entered yet another global mission field, only this one is in our front yard.
Through your financial gifts, North American Mission’s yearly contribution for four years, and Fifth Act Church Planting’s indispensable and ongoing support on the ground in New York City, the King who was revealed to the Magi on that first Epiphany will by his grace reveal himself to scores of people groups within walking distance of my front steps. Won’t you please prayerfully consider partnering with us to make this a reality?
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Pastor Erick Sorensen is the church planting pastor of Epiphany Lutheran Church in New York City, NY.