2 Peter 1:16-21
Many Christian churches follow a calendar of special seasons and days throughout the year. In truth, no day is really greater or more special than another in God’s estimation, but we keep the calendar as a way to help each other remember the events of the life of Jesus and their meaning.
At the end of last November, we began the church year with the season called Advent. Week by week, we worshiped God with our thoughts focused on Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love, getting our hearts ready for the birth of Christ.
Christmas, of course, is our chosen day for remembering Jesus’ birth.
January 6th each year is called Epiphany, the day to celebrate how the magi came from afar to worship the baby Jesus with precious gifts, thus revealing, or demonstrating, that Jesus is the Messiah (the Christ) who was sent by God. That’s what Epiphany means: revealing or demonstrating. Here at Bethel this year, we canceled services on January 8th, when we would have celebrated Epiphany in our worship service.
Tradition calls for remembering Jesus’ baptism on the Sunday following Epiphany... and it doesn’t hurt to reflect on our own baptism then, as well.
Since January 6th, we have been in the “season after Epiphany.” Some years, this is a very brief season— it all depends on the date for Easter.
Calculating the date for Easter is a peculiar trick, involving the cycles of the Moon and the date for the Spring Equinox— the day when Winter ends, Spring begins, and day and night are of equal length. The date of Easter has been computed, ever since the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325, as the Sunday after the first Full Moon following the Spring Equinox. This year, Easter comes a little bit on the late side: April 16th. (It is possible for Easter to come as early as the second day of Spring.) This is why, this year, we have extra “Sundays in Epiphany.”
The final Sunday of the Epiphany season each year, we read from the gospels about Jesus’ “Transfiguration” on a mountain, just before he made his final trip to Jerusalem to face crucifixion. Matthew, Mark, and Luke each tell this story, with somewhat different details. The point of the story is that God directly told the Apostles who Jesus is:
We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.
2nd Peter 1:16-18
The gospels report that Jesus came down from the mountain where his disciples saw him shining in the light of his glory, and he immediately set his face toward Jerusalem and the cross. That is why, in the church, we gather for a special worship service on March 1st to begin to prepare our hearts to walk with Jesus toward his crucifixion.
Ash Wednesday is the first day of the season of Lent, the forty days (excepting Sundays) before Easter Sunday. During Lent, Christians prepare for the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
At the Ash Wednesday worship service, we repent of our old life and renew our resolve to trust the good news of Jesus Christ. The ashes are a traditional symbol of our repentance, and of our resolve to live a new life in Christ.
You will do well to be attentive to this
as to a lamp shining in a dark place,
until the day dawns
and the Morning Star rises in your hearts.
2nd Peter 1:20