It is the Eve of Epiphany, and we are entering the season during which we celebrate the many ways in which Jesus both was and is still revealed in our world. This season brings with it an important challenge – our need to consider what it really means to be not just followers of Jesus but revealers of Jesus in our world.
Church attendance in most of our Western nations has fallen dramatically over the last 20 – 30 years and it is easy for us to blame the culture around us which pulls people in so many different directions. But are we to blame too? Can the people who live and work around us see Jesus revealed through our words and actions? Are we more loving, more compassionate more generous because of our faith? Are our lives really committed to God’s mission of transforming a broken world? These are good questions for all of us to ponder during this season of Epiphany.
How often in the last year has someone asked you about your lifestyle and why you live differently from those around you? When I worked in Africa and the refugee camps of Asia people often asked “Why are you doing this?” They knew that we could have been at home in comfortable houses and comfortable lives and yet we had chosen to live differently because of our faith and it impressed them. They saw something of Jesus revealed in our lives and it opened many doors to witness to the love of a God who cares for all the lost and broken people of our world.
Today I am not sure how often that is true. Yes we live more simply than many of our neighbours and we live as a community that seeks to love and care for each other. We grow as much of our own produce as possible and try to live sustainably. We also practice a daily spiritual rhythm of prayer and mediation and reach out to others with generous hospitality. But how different are we really from the people around us?
It is easy for us to become complacent about our faith and not consider the true challenges that becoming a disciple places on us. The wise men came to see Jesus and they returned home “by another way”. Their lives had been changed and the old ways no longer worked for them. Of course we do not know what those changes were but they must have been life transforming. For us too the events of Christmas should be life transforming. Following Jesus is not meant to be some cursory assent to the question “Do you believe in Jesus?” Following Jesus is meant to turn our lives around so that we go out and live differently in a way that draws others to the God in whom we live and move and have our being.
Doing mission is not for the few who choose to serve in distant countries. The mission of God calls all of us to step out of our comfort zones into another way of being and another way of doing. It calls all of us to accept the challenge of Epiphany to live and serve joyfully in a way that reveals Jesus to others so that they too hunger for the One who has transformed us.