Twelve years ago I had the privilege of sharing leadership on a trip to Israel and Egypt. We were a small group of Episcopalians and Baptists, trekking to and through various holy sites identified with the life and ministry of Jesus. There are a host of highlights of that trip worthy of mention, but today I am remembering the fields of Bethlehem. On the edge of the modern city hailed as the birthplace of Christ, where shrines and iconic bling dominate the landscape you will find a monastery. It is an ancient place that emanates a kind of serenity lacking in most of the venerated sites associated with Jesus. Old stone walls and stubby trees frame the immediate boundary of the place, and beyond those edges an expanse of pasture and gentle hills extend for a distance.
Bethlehem fields. It is here that shepherds watched their flocks when the glory of the Lord appeared to them to announce the miracle that would shift the poles of the human heart. It is the place among all the places we visited that drew me into the depth of the Christian story and embraced me with its power. Here I could imagine the shepherds. Here I could listen for the baa's of the sheep and goats as they fed in the dark night on the hills. I could imagine the sounds of birth and the cry of a baby and, in time, the growing light that would fill the sky and lead humanity to the cradle of faith. This is the place where The Story resonates with me and becomes deep-in-my-bones real.
Today is the feast of the Epiphany. It is my favorite feast of the year, calling me to follow the transcendent light that holds me fast in its holy grip through the journey of my days. It is a day when divine simplicity shines through the web of theological complexity that marks the mystery of faith and infuses my soul with the joy of God's love. It is a day of triumph that heralds the ultimate triumph of resurrection. For all of its majesty it is day of silence and awe.
I doubt that silence will permeate my day, but I will do my best to keep the awe within my sights. I will light a candle, probably more than one, a reminder of the gift of light and love that translates as hope for me. More than anything else in these difficult days of our lives hope it what keeps me afloat. Today I will give thanks that faith guides my way like a polestar, close my eyes and imagine the fields of Bethlehem ablaze with light.