You probably know the “12 Days of Christmas” song, which is fun to sing but also teaches us that Christmas is a season and not just a day. After the 12th day of Christmas Christians mark the day of the Epiphany where we celebrate the arrival of the wise men or magi who brought gifts to the baby Jesus, gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. In that moment Jesus was made real in the world by being revealed to those three who had followed the star. They took gifts to the holy family and presented them, because the baby was revealed to them as more than a baby but a king and leader.
In my tradition we’re still in the season of Epiphany, which means on Sundays when we worship together we read stories about the way that Jesus’ presence and power manifests itself in the world. We learn from particular examples that lend themselves to that message – stories about Jesus’ baptism, his earliest days in ministry, the calling of disciples, how he changed water into wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and more. These are stories that show the presence of God in the world revealed in Jesus.
It’s fitting that it’s in this season that we honor and celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who would have turned 90 on January 15. Dr. King took Jesus’ teachings seriously and was deeply shaped by them and the church, a community that is called to manifest Jesus and his love in the world today.
Today and tomorrow are good days to honor Dr. King and the way in which he loved the world despite much of society’s rejection of him and his work. Perhaps you’ll participate in some form of service in the community. There will also be special gatherings full of songs and speeches, and other highlights that promote and help us imagine the places where we live, work, worship, and play as places of beloved community.
Today, Jan. 20, you’re invited to the 2019 Newton County Martin Luther King, Jr. program at 3 p.m. at Newton High School. The Honorable Judge Samuel Ozburn, Superior Court Judge, Alcovy Judicial Circuit, will be the keynote speaker. Tomorrow, there will be a variety of opportunities in your area and in Atlanta for hands-on service and relationship building in the community.
I want to personally invite you to Oxford College of Emory University as we host our annual MLK celebration on Tuesday, Jan. 22 at 7:30 p.m. at Old Church in Oxford. This year’s program, “The King Letters: A Retrospective,” will feature Dr. Gregory Ellison, associate professor of pastoral care and counseling at Candler School of Theology of Emory University. He will be accompanied by musician and Candler student, Julian Reid, and spoken-word poet and Candler alumnus, Tavares Stephens. Their program will be creative and dynamic and is free and open to the public. Contact the Rev. Lyn Pace at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.
These days hold special significance, but they also hold promise. Promise that our communities really will be beloved communities where valleys are lifted up and lions and lambs live together in peace. They hold the possibility that our communities will be places where we err on the side of justice and love no matter what. That was the message of Jesus that we celebrate during Epiphany, and it’s the message Dr. King lived out and left for us to carry forward. May we not only imagine it but also do it.
The Rev. Dr. Lyn Pace is the college chaplain at Oxford College of Emory University.