Epiphany 2018

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Happy Epiphany 2018.

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Epiphany: Jesus’ Baptism

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Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.  The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water …”

— John 4:13-15, ESV.

The water that wells up to eternal life is baptism.  Baptism is living water made alive by the word of God.  And through this water Christ grants his eternal life and righteousness to all who believe.

One of the first celebrations of Epiphany is of the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River.

In order to fulfill all righteousness, he took our place.  He submitted to John’s baptism in the Jordan river.  John’s baptism was for repentance, and in this way Jesus took our sin, and identified completely with us sinners.  He began his ministry by taking our place, and becoming our substitute.  He became the Lamb of God.  (Genesis 2:8).

When we were baptized, the water washed our sins away.  When Jesus was baptized, he accepted our sins from the water as his own.  John said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  (John 1:29, ESV).

To Jordan’s river came our Lord,
The Christ, whom heavenly hosts adored,
The God from God, The Light from Light,
The Lord of glory, power, and might.

The Savior came to be baptized
The Son of God in flesh disguised
To stand beneath the Father’s will
And all His righteousness fulfill.

Then from God’s throne with thunderous sound
Came God’s own voice with words profound:
“This is My Son,” was His decree,
“The one I love, who pleases Me.”

The Father’s word, the Spirit’s flight
Anointed Christ in glorious sight
As God’s own choice, from Adam’s fall
To save the world and free us all.

— “To Jordan’s River Came Our Lord,” LSB 405:1-2, 4-5.

Blessed Epiphany.

White Epiphany Winter

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All the pictures in this post were taken in a field on Christmas Eve 2013 A.D.  So the original title of this post was supposed to have been “White Christmas Winter,” but Flickr changed some of its code, and I had difficulty posting pictures here to WordPress.  So now it is an Epiphany post.  It was a white Christmas, and so far God has blessed us with a snowy and cold Winter.

Whether God sends us warmth or cold or wind, we rejoice in all things.

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In the picture above, one can see that the trunk of a very large tree was snapped in half by a tornado last August.

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A lot of trees were bent over by that tornado.  Many were also broken.

New trees will grow in their place.

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The light still shines.

Epiphany is a season in which we celebrate the revelation of the shining light of Jesus Christ.  The baby born in Bethlehem is the Son of God and the promised Messiah.

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The Christmas Eve snowstorm delivered about eight to ten inches of a very flaky fluffy snow.

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The picture above shows the flat reflective flakes this snow can form.

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Only a very cold day will preserve such delicate flakes in a bright Winter sun.

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If one cross-country skis at night with a headlamp through this type of snow, the snowflakes will reflect the light back from the lamp in a million little points of light.  As one schusses through the snow, those lights can sparkle.

It is beautiful on a cold winter night with twinkling stars above and sparkling snow below.

Above is a short video to give an idea of what that sparkling can be like.

Unfortunately, internet compression has caused this video to lose much of its rich blue color and sharp detail.

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Tracks from a Christmas Eve Field Mouse

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These tracks would often suddenly end.  This snow is so fluffy, it must be easy for an adventurous mouse to tunnel underneath.  I suppose they have to watch out for hawks.  How does such a little mammal stay warm when it is so cold outside?  God watches over all His creatures.

I saw a number of animal tracks in the snow.  I’m not an expert, but I thought I also saw tracks from wild turkeys and possibly a pair of foxes.  Maybe the Lord’s creatures were out preparing for Christmas.  We know that all “creation waits with eager longing for the” second coming of Christ.

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  {Romans 8:19-21, ESV}.

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Winter photography seems to be best only when it is very cold, or maybe that is just my fingers’ imagination.

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Usually, this is as close as I get to a selfie.

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May the true love and selfless beauty of Christ be revealed to you.  May God bless you and your family in this season of Epiphany.

Photographing Outdoor Christmas Lights

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The best time to take pictures of outdoor Christmas lights is in the snow right after sunset.  That way the camera can record a good balance of interesting light.

During the day, the holiday lights will often be overwhelmed.  At night, the lights will stand out, but most everything else will be pitch black.  Christmas lights look best in a twilight setting, preferably next to a warmly illumined church or home.  Especially appreciated are days with a sweet twilight winter blue.

Red, white, and green decorations provide a nice color contrast.

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Snow also brightens up a scene by reflecting light from the sky and the decorations.  In the photograph above, notice how the snow on the ground and the tree trunks adds to the interesting light.  Also, the snow on the house is blue, while the snow on the tree trunk is lit up by the red tree.  It adds depth, and makes for an interesting contrast of color and light.  Interesting light is what photography is all about.

The snow also provides a blank slate making the world fresh and new.  Instead of darkness, the world is clean, crisp, new, and white.  It is a clean slate upon which to shine new light.

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Putting up holiday lights can be an act of worship.  The Good Book says, “Let my prayer be set before You as incense, The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.”  (Psalm 141:2, NKJV).  Christmas lights are put up in celebration of the birth of the Savior.  May their light rise to heaven as a prayer, and may they illuminate the hearts of men by symbolizing the true Light of the world, Jesus.

Through the wonder of internet photography, the light from these trees can now travel around the world.

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Merry twelve days of Christmas!  Happy New Year!

Christmas ends on January 5.  The first day of Epiphany is January 6.  Epiphany is also a festival of revelation and light.

Some Lights for the Holidays

These outdoor pictures were taken in December 2008.

“Holiday” is short for “Holy Day,” which means a day that is sacred, set apart, or devoted to God.  Because of Christ, God has declared all days of rest to be holidays.

May you have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

(Since the calendar is based on the birth of Christ, both holidays are really the same).  Jesus was born approximately 2011 years ago.

Jesus is the light of the world.  He is the way, the truth, and the life.  (John 14:6).

At Christmas we celebrate the incarnation of God almighty as a human baby born in Bethlehem.  He came to save his people from their sins and to take us to heaven.

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Since the Incarnation is eternal, Christmas or Christ-mass never ends.  God is always Emmanuel, he is always with his people.  (Matthew 1:23, 28:20).

Merry Christmas and happy New Year!

Notes:  The outdoor pictures were taken in December 2008.  The indoor pictures were taken in January 2010 at the Paine Art Center in Oshkosh, Wisconsin (in the only room they allow amateur photographers).

“One King”

Kings of earth on a course unknown
Bearing gifts from afar,
Hoping, praying,
Following yonder star.

Silhouette of a caravan
Painted against the sky.
Wise men searching
For the Holy Child.

A star hangs over Bethlehem,
A journey ends in the night.
Three kings trembling,
Behold the glorious sight.

One king held the frankincense,
One king held the myrrh,
One king held the purest gold,

And one king held the hope of the world.

— “One King,” by Jeff & Gayla Borders, and Lowell Alexander.

I first heard these lyrics on A Christmas Story, an album by the Christian singing group Point of Grace.  I am always struck by that last line.  Three magi gave precious gifts to Jesus, but Jesus gave them and the entire world the most precious gift of all: peace with God.

Happy Epiphany!

God is a Person

The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only begotten, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  [John 1:14].

What are the events that brought us the most meaning this Holiday Season?  Was it the presents that we received or was it the time spent with our family and friends?

When we think of heaven, do we first think of the things we will receive: eternal life, a mansion with many rooms, plenty of good food, no worries, no tears, and no death?  Undoubtedly, many think about reuniting with lost loved ones.  But how many long for heaven as the consummation of a personal relationship with God: a reunion between God and his lost loved ones?

The Bible repeatedly describes Christ’s return as a wedding day.  It is the day when the Bridegroom comes to get his Bride.  Human love and marriage is an example that God uses to show us that he seeks a personal and intimate relationship with us.

God is a real person.  He demonstrated that to us by becoming one of us, and living a life for us.  “No one has ever seen God, but God the only Son who is at the Father’s side has made him known.”  (John 1:18).

In false belief systems, the universe is run by impersonal forces, and the one common denominator in all these false religions is that these forces can be used by man.  These are forces to be selfishly manipulated, not people to be loved.  Even some church people treat God in this way, thinking that if they live a good life, then God must or will reward them.  But we will never find true meaning nor salvation for our lives in this way.

Abraham lived a “good life,” but not because he expected God to reward him like an employer; but rather because he was God’s child through faith.  God was not Abraham’s employer, but rather his Father and friend.  (James 2:23).  How do we treat our true friends?

Many Christians look to Jesus’ resurrection as convincing evidence for their faith, but we should also look to his birth and life as a human person.  His multifaceted personality is unique in the belief systems of this world:  God is a person, and as we learn every holiday season, only a relationship with another person can bring true meaning to our lives.  In fact, God has an eternal and infinite personality, and through Christ, only he can bring eternal and infinite meaning to our lives.

The celebrations we have here on earth in commemoration of his birth in a manger are only a faint reflection of that heavenly celebration.  At that time we will not only see each other, but we will at last see God: face to face, person to person, friend to friend.

No one has ever seen God, but God the only Son who is at the Father’s side has made him known.  [John 1:18].

copyright © 2000 @ vdma.wordpress.com

Notes:  This article was first published in the St. Peter Church newsletter, January 2001 A.D.

Ponder Now

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”  — Luke 2:19.

Please take some time to ponder the reality of the Incarnation, the reality of the almighty eternal God as an infant in a manger, in the arms of a young maiden, in this world for us.

Merry Christmas!

B. Theodoret Quote

Christ always received worship and adoration from the angels, for He always was God.  Now they are adoring Him also as man.

— Blessed Theodoret (393-457 A.D.), on Hebrews 1; quoted also by the Lutheran Reformers in the Catalog of Testimonies.

St. Athanasius Quote

The Word did not become flesh in order to add to divinity.  In order that flesh might rise up, He came forth from Mary, not that the Word might become better.  There was a great addition to the human body from communion and union with the Word.

— St. Athanasius (296-373 A.D.), Letter to Epictetus; quoted also by the Lutheran Reformers in the Catalog of Testimonies.