I love the idea of an epiphany, that "a-ha moment" that brings a flash enlightenment.
Right now, we're in the season of Epiphany, according to the church calendar. Epiphany begins just after Christmas and runs all the way up until Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins.
It's a strange and beautiful story, the original Epiphany: astrologers following a star to find Jesus.
The way I grew up, the only way to find Jesus was through the Bible.
But here we find in the very birth-story of Jesus, the Magi, the Wise Ones, the Kings of the East, who found Jesus through astrology, used dreams as a method of guidance against the evils of Herod, and went away into their own country again without a conversion-to-Christianity story.
The story of Christmas is all about God-With-The-Unlikeliest: Mary the Girl, Joseph the Carpenter, shepherds in a field. Even the Kings who come to visit are outsiders, following a star instead of religious protocol, astrologers instead of pharisees.
If we take away anything at all from the story of Christmas and Epiphany, it should be this: Love shows up everywhere, peace on earth, goodwill for everyone.
For the poor.
For the unclean.
For the unchosen.
For the unknown.
For the unexpectant.
For the religiously different.
Here, in the birth-story of Jesus, it's so clear: the all-inclusive embodiment of Love has come to be With Us, whoever we are, wherever we are.
But for many of us, the beginning of Love is the hardest.
We can barely believe that Love loves us first.
We can see that Love is limitless for others, but we have a hard time accepting Love for ourselves. We don't truly believe that unconditional Love is truly unconditional--not for us, anyway.
Our experiences of abandonment, abuse, judgment, failure--these teach us that Love is highly conditional. Toxic theology reinforces what our broken hearts feel must be true: we'll never really be good enough, unless and until ___________. And the blank never, ever gets filled. It just stretches into endless, exhausting demands for perfection, performance, approval.
It's an act of radical, counter-toxic-religious rebellion to love ourselves fully, completely, and unconditionally, the way we've always been told that Love is.
But this is what we are called into this season of Epiphany: the great, epic, mysterious "a-ha" of Love that includes ALL OF US.
All of us star-followers,
all of us dreamers-of-dreams,
Epiphany calls us to into the great, unending journey of inclusion.
Love is limitless, and so we will never come to the end of what Love includes.
Beginning with ourselves.
May this be the year that Love includes you, and Love includes me.