Advent, Christmas and Epiphany are closely related. The first seasons of the new church year. A prophet, a few Bethlehem shepherds, and three astrologers from northern Iraq contribute to God’s revelation of himself. More precisely, each points to the universality of Jesus Christ.
The signs in the heavens, heralding a King’s birth, was not missed by sheep minders and eastern scholars. But we who rush and bustle our way toward Christmas may be short-changing ourselves.
The commercial world whips up a shopping frenzy." Santa with his cargo cult meets every child’s wish and want. School and summer holidays make extra demands.
The preacher has to go fast-forward to mid-December to ensure his Christmas message has full coverage. Such compression robs him of a message he wants to give on "last things" – with which the church year began.
The Second Coming interprets the crib in a shed! Ascension Day is another seasonal casualty – its mid-week misfortune.
Pentecost, the birthday of- the Christian-Church,-gets-a nod of approval. But it is well short of the allure of Christmas and the solemnity of Easter.
Why not celebrate the Holy Spirit coming to Mary? (Luke 1:35). In all the seasons of the church year it is The Holy Spirit’s influence that provides the zip.
Take the celebration of Church membership. The very first were converted Jews. They laid down the Law: "You cannot be saved unless you are circumcised as the Law of Moses requires". (Acts 15:1 TEV).
St Paul, trained to strictest Jewish standards, thought the matter through – and sided with the Gentiles. St Peter, with others from Joppa "were amazed that God had pouted out his gift of the Holy Spirit upon the Gentiles also". (Acts 10:45). Empirical proof.
Seeing, at Antioch, was believing! "It is clear that God gave those Gentiles the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. Who was I, then, to try to stop God?" (Acts 11: 17). "And God, who knows the hearts of men, showed his approval of the Gentiles by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as He had to us". (Acts 15:8)
The gifting of the Holy Spirit enables us to celebrate every season of the church year. More than that – he empowers us when there are loving tasks to be done. Celebration and rolled-up sleeves!
There is more. We are bound to Christ, and to each other, by the strongest ties. Jewish superiority has gone. Circumcision is dead. Tradition became non sequitur.
The Epiphany season says "Whosoever will, may come".