From the Pastor, January 6, 2016

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Today, January 6th, is Epiphany, the date on the Church calendar in which we celebrate the coming of the magi to Bethlehem to pay homage to this enigmatic young child, born to a young Jewish couple of no status yet rumored to be the newborn King of the Jews. These magi, probably Zoroastrian priests and scholars from Persia, ostensibly follow a “star.” Many people over the years have speculated just what sort of astronomical phenomenon could have given rise to this journey to the land of Judah. My brother, Nick, has collected the musings from the astronomical community, which can be viewed on his website at http://www.astronomynotes.com/history/bethlehem-star.html.

What has caught my interest recently is the possibility that what Matthew is referring to is not a celestial event but rather a spiritual event. Dale C. Allison, Jr., in an article published in Biblical Archaeology Review suggests that the star was, in fact, an angelic presence. It is important to keep in mind, Allison says, “In antiquity, stars were widely thought to be living beings, and this is the clue to a correct understanding of Matthew’s text.” Throughout the Bible, angels appear not only as messengers but also as tour guides, as it were. Stars as cosmic beings frequently appear in famous battles assisting the Israelites or engaging in heavenly struggles of their own.

Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of the divine in the human world. The idea of the Incarnation of the Son of God in the flesh of Jesus, the infant, has always exercised my wonder and boggled my thinking. Consider it: The Divine Presence at the Center of the Universe, the Supreme Source of all levels of Reality somehow condensed and constricted itself in order to enter into our tiny, miniscule reality here on planet Earth. The Infinite entered into the Finite. Eternity entered into the Time-Bound.

I once tried to express this artistically in a series of banners I made for the Advent-Christmas season. The banners depicted a dark star-filled sky that was split open much like a knife would slice into a curtain, and a sliver of unimaginably bright light were to shine through the opening. The Incarnation has to involve some sort of rupturing of the normal physical properties of time and space in order for the Eternal to enter into time.

But something very important arises out of this. Think of it: By definition, the Eternal encompasses everything that has ever happened, is happening and will happen in the future. But it also contains all the possible things that could have happened, might still happen, and could happen if certain other things happen in order to give rise to new possibilities. This is what entered into our world. What that means is that there is nothing that is predestined or predetermined. All possibilities are present in our world as a result of the Incarnation of the Eternal One. Nothing is a foregone conclusion. The future lies in the power of our choosing. It began with Mary’s saying “Yes” to God, because with God there is nothing that is impossible. Remember that. Because the Eternal One has entered our Time and Space realm, our reality is filled with unlimited possibilities.

In this new year, as individuals and as a church, I challenge each of us, myself included, to entertain all these possibilities and to allow our imaginations to expand and embrace all that God wants to make possible in our world through us. May the Star of Possibility guide all of us in our continuing journey of discovery and service together.

Rev. Dr. Craig S. Pesti-Strobel
Coburg and Junction City United Methodist Churches