I love words. I love old words with an interesting history; new words, redefined words and my favorite- made-up words. Here at camp we can make up words like fantabulous and cramazing and even though you wont find them in the dictionary, we still know what they mean.
Words shape what we feel, how we think and even who we are. Words help define our greatest emotions and convictions. And the power of words can cause an infinite amount of danger and hurt but they can also bring freedom and life. During the holiday season each year, we are bombarded with all sorts of words and phrases. Just last week our middle son Finn sang his own rendition of Frosty the Snowman: “Frosty the Snowman was jolly golly sow, with a copy top and and a loppy dop…” or something like that.
Two of my favorite words this time of year are Advent and Epiphany. These are ancient words that have deep and important meaning for us today. Advent comes from the Latin word Adventus, meaning “coming” or “arriving”. Epiphany comes from the Greek word, Epiphania, meaning “manifestation”. Okay campers, I know this sounds like school but stick with me. You most likely didn’t hear these words while you were cruising through the 20 radio stations blasting Christmas music these past few weeks. But the cool thing is that despite thousands of years of cultures, people, translations and languages, these words have managed to survive through the ages and they help to remind us what this season is all about and maybe more.
This may come as a shock to some of you but Christmas is about Jesus of Nazareth… not Santa. I know, St. Nicolas plays a role in the story later on, and thanks to Veggie Tales we can all appreciate how the stories “may” have tied together. But unfortunately our culture has done a bang up job at helping us to forget about the true meaning of Christmas… even though it is in the name. So lets put Jesus in the middle of our two out of date words- Advent and Epiphany. Advent is the coming of Christ– the anticipation, the waiting, the trailer before the movie begins. It is a time to set aside everything else in life and “make room” for the Christ Child. I like to think about when we are getting our house ready for guest to arrive (even though I’m sure that we’re all glad our family has gone back home- right?). We get rid of the clutter, move the furniture, get out the air mattresses and the extra sleeping bags and get ready for our guest. Our attention and focus is on them. Waiting for them to pull up in the driveway and come into our home. And at the end of the Advent season, we celebrate Christmas- the birth of our Savior Jesus.
Now Epiphany- chirp, chirp. Wait- the presents are unwrapped, the tree is gone and the cookies are all stale- what are we celebrating again? HE’S HERE! The long-awaited King- the one that the prophets spoke of- the Son of God. He is here, in the flesh- our flesh- skin and bone and wrapped in a blanket in a barn in Bethlehem. The Word made flesh- as John writes in his Gospel. The same Word that spoke the heavens and earth into existence is here. The same Word that led God’s people out of Egypt, out of Babylon, away from enemies and hostility and into freedom and perfect peace is sleeping in a manger. He is here- it really happened in space and time and reality and His coming changed the world forever.
The other great thing about old words is that they often apply to several things at the same time. Advent and Epiphany are both about the actual event of Jesus’ birth two thousand years ago and about his actual return one day. This Word is both about the now and the not yet. One of our favorite themes and sayings out here at Canaan is “You are who you’re not and you’re not who you are”. That may sound confusing but it’s meant to get our attention simply to say that when we understand and believe that Jesus came to earth, He was who He said He was and He did what He said He did and we believe that by His perfect sacrifice we have a new position before God, suddenly we change from being dead to being alive. From being an enemy of God to being called His sons and daughters. His life in us begins changing the way we think and feel and act. And with a willing obedience and a humble heart, we see the very life of Jesus manifested in our life as we are being and becoming more like Him everyday.
So here is my Crazallenge to you in 2014 (and to myself): Let’s not make resolutions- lets make space. Let’s not make lists (of things to do or not do)- let’s make time. Let’s continue the daily work of Advent and Epiphany all year long and get excited that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. What bearing will that Word have on our lives this year?
Canaan Executive Director