But God

Remembering Karis, by Valerie Kornfield Schalm, Pittsburgh

But God’s grace is wonderful

Acts 20:24 But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned my by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.

Valerie posted this reflection yesterday on her Facebook page.

Nine years ago, we said goodbye to Karis Joy.

With our family gathered today, we lit a candle, said a prayer, and remembered Karis with gratitude and longing (saudades)!

Among other things, we talked about…

…how delighted she would have been to welcome Dan to Pittsburgh, and how she would have loved his new house – with the big picture window, the deck in the back with a beautiful view, and the spacious kitchen…

…how Mom and Karis used to plan escapes from Montefiore Hospital during her free time and have great adventures, Mom pushing her wheelchair and IV pole up and down the Oakland streets, to the library (she had to be taken back to the hospital by the police), getting shut out of Montefiore in the maze of underground passageways connecting the various Oakland hospitals, popping up once in the psychiatric hospital and being taken as one of their patients, taking tunnels or going overland to the Children’s Hospital to visit patients there, to the Phipps Conservatory outdoor garden, even making it through upper Pitt campus all the way to the Franzen’s house once…

…how vibrant and strong and full of life she was, vivacious, passionate, excited about a million plans and projects and people, especially in times when illness did not limit her as much…

…how the struggle of her decline was a combination of losing physical and mental capacity…

…how she tried so many times to fix Abuelita’s (my Dad’s mom’s) old piano and took it with her from South Bend to each of her homes in Pittsburgh…

…how her dreams sometimes seemed too lofty, but sometimes found serendipity, like when she planned a fundraising website for a program serving underprivileged children near our home in São Paulo, and received a donation of $10,000…

…how she loved to create and enjoy art, and took several of us to local art shows and exhibits…

…how my work is connected to her life, both in the PICU and with wound and ostomy care. I hope to honor her and bless other patients and families as I connect with them in times of need…

Karis, we love you and miss you! Thank you for the ways you continue to walk with us. We look forward to the day when our eyes touch again! 

Who is this man?

But Jesus cares

Mark 4:35-41 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out. … But soon a fierce storm came up. … Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” Jesus rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still! Suddenly the wind stopped and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

Shutterstock: Oskari Porkka

Mark 8:27-29 Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say I am?” “Well,” they replied. “Some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.” Then Jesus asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.”

Teacher … Messiah. What a huge leap from one to the other. Messiah, the Anointed One, the Son of God, the Savior, Redeemer, Rescuer, Lord.

A friend recently told me, “I admire Jesus. I learn a lot from him. But I don’t believe he is God.” I thought but didn’t say, You’re in Mark 4. But Mark 8 is coming!

A lot happened between Mark 4 and Mark 8. The disciples saw Jesus bring peace to a man who had been tortured by a legion of demons, heal a frightened woman sick for twelve years, bring a dead twelve-year-old back to life, suffer rejection in his home town, give them authority to heal, feed five thousand men plus women and children from one boy’s lunch, walk on water, free a Gentile child from a plaguing demon, restore hearing to a deaf man and sight to a blind one, feed four thousand more people …

What do you need to make the jump from “Teacher” to “Messiah”? Can you accept the testimony of those who walked with Jesus day in and day out, who witnessed his power and compassion and listened to his wisdom? Ask the Father. Don’t stop asking, seeking, knocking.

In The Inner Voice of Love, Henri Nouwen writes beautifully about Jesus calming the wind and waves in the story told in Mark 6:45-50, when the disciples still didn’t “get” who he really was. Here’s part of what Nouwen says:

… waves cover you and want to sweep you off your feet … feeling rejected, forgotten, misunderstood. Feeling anger, resentment, or even the desire for revenge, self-pity, self-rejection. These waves make you feel powerless. What are you to do? Make the conscious choice to move the attention of your anxious heart away from these waves and direct it to the One who walks on them and says, “It’s me. Don’t be afraid.” … He is very close to you and will put your soul to rest.

Jesus does care.

What’s in a name?

But Jesus gave nicknames

Mark 3:16-17 These are the twelve Jesus chose: Simon (whom he named Peter), James and John (the sons of Zebedee, but Jesus nicknamed them ‘Sons of Thunder’).

Isaiah 49:1, 15-16 The Lord called me before my birth; from within the womb he called me by name. … Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands.

Shutterstock: paulaphoto

John 10:3 The sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name.

1 Peter 1:2 God the Father knew you and chose you long ago.

Some nicknames are affectionate and delightful. Others carry a sting. And others represent a change in language or culture or context. Saul, for example, began calling himself Paul on his first missionary journey, switching from a Hebrew name to a Greco-Roman name as he reached out to non-Jewish people.

A prayer warrior name Leanne Payne (now in heaven) used to say, “Listen to the words of love God is always saying to you.” Think about it: the sovereign Lord of the universe always speaking words of love to YOU. We miss them because we’re so focused on or distracted by everything else in our lives. But if we’re quiet before him and ask him to open our ears, we can hear his voice centering, calming, nourishing, and encouraging us with his love.

I meet weekly on Zoom with a group of women from several different South American countries. We rotate leadership of our meetings. A few weeks ago, our leader surprised us by giving each of us a nickname which had come to her as she prayed for us. It felt like a glimpse into God’s heart of love for each of us individually; we felt “seen” for something special about who we are. The gals have referred to this in later meetings. It clearly had deep impact for each of us.

So, I invite you to ask the Lord for his special name for you. Don’t overthink this. Simply set aside a few minutes be still, ask him, and listen to his response. If you’d like to share with me, I would love to hear what happens. If it’s hard for you to hear him, you might want to ask someone else to pray and listen with you.

My prayer is that you find this experience so rewarding you can’t wait to do it again. Maybe every day!

Next time we’ll think about the names we use for God.

Gentle, meek, and mild?

But Jesus got angry

Mark 3:1-5 Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand. Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him. He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts.

Ephesians 4:26 Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry.

Hebrews 12:15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.

James 3:14-15 If you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom.

All my life I’ve been afraid of anger, because in my experience anger was linked to emotional and physical violence. So when I came to this story in Mark, my first instinct was to skip over it in favor of something more positive and cheerful. I could write, for example, about the stunning rainbow that hovered over Pittsburgh Wednesday afternoon …

Shutterstock: Pushish Images

But God didn’t let me get away with that. In the background of my thoughts, I kept wrestling with the issue of anger and how I would just shrivel up or melt into a puddle on the floor if I perceived Jesus was angry with me.

I am in no way an expert on dealing with anger. Far from it! But here are a few simple guidelines that seem helpful to me at this moment in my journey.

Anger is an emotion we all feel—unless we’re in denial. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. If we don’t give it proper attention, it may instead turn inward and become a “secondary” emotion, hurting us and others through depression, bitterness, apathy, resentment, unhealed grief, or other emotional states. When anger settles in, as part of our emotional furniture, it becomes harmful. Hence the wisdom of Ephesians 4:26.

If we feel anger, we need to pay attention to it. “Primary” emotions, I’m told, surge and then recede in our bodies in about 90 seconds. Until the emotion has passed through, we shouldn’t take any action. But once the emotion has dissipated, we can ask ourselves questions: What was the source of the anger? Against what or whom was it directed? Was it appropriate, i.e. did its intensity match the severity of the provocation? What did I want to do while I was feeling the emotion? Is that action appropriate, i.e. will it reduce or escalate the perceived threat? What else is going on in my life that could intensify the feeling of anger (fear, fatigue, stress, the sense of repeated offense, a feeling of impotence, a narrative I am telling myself about this person or situation …)? Anger can show us a lot about ourselves and the condition of our souls.

Anger is our body’s response to the perception that something is wrong. We need to pay attention to this and decide what to do about it. There is always something we can do about perceived injustice, even if it is “only” relinquishing our pain to God and praying for those who have offended or hurt us. The Scriptures are full of references to God’s justice and the wisdom of entrusting to him those situations we are not properly positioned to do anything about. But often there is something positive we can do, contributing to God’s purposes of healing and redemption, rather than harm and destruction.

The energy of anger propels us to act. This can be a good thing, or it can be terrible. Good actions can be carried out calmly. The impulse of the feeling of anger, though, can often be harmful. Self-control includes hanging in there with the seemingly interminable 90 seconds so we can then evaluate possible actions with our rational brain engaged, not just our impulsive brain. If I yell and hit back when my child yells and hits, for a moment I may feel relief, but the fruit of those actions will damage my child and his or her trust in me.

Thinking about all this took me back to the story in Mark 3, and to the other references cited above. One thought I had (and I would love to hear yours!) is that Jesus’s frustration with the religious leaders opened a window of opportunity for them to see things differently. They placed enforcement of their (mis)interpretation of the law ahead of the wellbeing of one of their congregants. Had their hearts been in tune with God’s loving heart, they could have seen grace in what Jesus did, and wonderful rejoicing could have strengthened all present. Instead, they went away to plot how they could kill Jesus.

Jesus was not for one second out of control of himself and his actions. The religious leaders’ offense had become engrained. Not even Jesus could “make” them change their minds and hearts. Yet he offered them an invitation, through bringing to light the condition of their hearts. An opportunity to repent, to change, to grow. To respond positively to truth.

Your thoughts about this complex topic?

It’s only a matter of time

But Jesus’s perspective is different

Mark 1:34, 41; 2:11 Jesus healed many people who were sick with various diseases … Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and healed the leper. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” … Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home.”

2 Corinthians 12:8-9 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away [a tormenting “thorn” in Paul’s body]. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”

How can a loving father with power to heal, NOT heal his beloved daughter?

Karis took this vexing question to the Lord again and again during her life. At age 11, she chose 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 as her life verses. She referred to them often in journals when she details her intimate conversations with God. Another frequent phrase is, “Don’t ask why. Ask what for.” Her high view of God’s sovereignty, combined with her absolute trust in his love for her, led her to look constantly for what he was doing through her difficult circumstances. I came to expect this question when we were once again in crisis and on the way to the hospital: “I wonder who’s there this time who needs to see God’s love?”

I mentioned on the last blog that the conversation between Jesus and Little James in the second episode of Season 3 of The Chosen could have been lifted from Karis’s journals. Here’s my transcript. It’s not complete but most of the conversation is there, in case you want to refer back to it later.

Jesus has just instructed the twelve disciples to go out two by two in different directions, giving them the authority to heal, as they have seen him heal many people. Lame Little James asks Jesus for a conversation afterwards.

James: How can I heal others when you haven’t healed me?

Jesus: Do you want to be healed?

James: Yes. Why haven’t you?

Jesus: Because I trust you.

James: What?

Jesus: Precious Little James, listen carefully. Within the Father’s will, I could heal you right now, and you would have a good story to tell.

James: That you do miracles.

Jesus: Yes. That’s a good story to tell. But there are already dozens who can tell that story, and there will be hundreds more, even thousands. But think of the story that you have if I don’t heal you. That you still praise God in spite of this [disability]. That you know how to focus on all that matters so much more than the body. That you show people you can be patient with your suffering her on earth, because you know you can spend eternity with no suffering. Not everyone can understand that. How many people do you think the Father and I trust this with? Not many.

James: But the other disciples—they’re so much more …

Jesus: Are you fast, impressive when you walk? Maybe not. But these are things the Father doesn’t care about. You are going to do more for me than most people ever dream. So many people need healing in order to believe in me … That doesn’t apply to you. And many are healed or not healed because the Father has a plan for them which may be a mystery. And we remember what Job says, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.”

James joins Jesus saying: “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Jesus: When you pass from this earth and you meet your Father in heaven, Isaiah promises you will leap like a deer. Your reward will be great. So hold on a little longer. And when you discover yourself finding true strength because of your weakness, and when you do great things in my name in spite of this [your lameness], the impact will last for generations. Do you understand?

James, with tears: Yes. Thank you, Master.

Jesus: A man like you healing others. Oh, what a sight! I can’t wait to hear your stories.

Jesus starts to walk away after they bless each other but turns back.

Jesus: And James, you will be healed. It’s only a matter of time.

Karis’s famous smile … on a Christmas day in the hospital

Your healing will come.

But Jesus shares his authority

Mark 6:7, 12-13 Jesus called his twelve disciples together and began sending them out two by two, giving them authority to cast out evil spirits [and to heal all diseases, Luke 9:1]. … So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God. And they cast out many demons and healed many sick people, anointing them with olive oil.

I’m skipping ahead in Mark today, because of something that happened last night. We had an evening without other commitments, and Dave suggested we watch the second episode of the new Season 3 of The Chosen (we haven’t managed to accompany the episodes as they’ve been released). The episode is called “Two by Two.” It dramatizes this passage in Mark, Luke 9, and Matthew 13.

After Jesus gives his instructions to the disciples and is walking away, the “other James” follows Jesus and asks for a conversation. In Mark 15:40, this James is referred to by a word that means least, less, little, small. English versions translate this variously as James the young, the younger, the youngest, the less, the lesser, the little. In The Chosen, he is called Little James, and James the brother of John is called Big James. Additionally, Little James is cast in The Chosen as a man with a lame leg.

As I listened to the conversation between Jesus and Little James, I had goosebumps. I watched with my mouth open. Because the conversation could have been lifted straight from the pages of Karis’s journals. Clearly the script was written by someone who has been there, who has asked God the question, “Why haven’t you healed me? How can I heal others like—like this?” Jesus’s response is exactly what Karis records God saying to her, multiple times from her adolescence on.

To understand more deeply the impact of this for me, it may be helpful to know that all her life, since being born with a severe intestinal anomaly, Karis, Dave and I, and our family have been challenged by Christians who believe God only doesn’t heal because of sin and/or lack of faith. Therefore, Dave and I, and later Karis as she grew up, were exhorted again and again to confess the sin for which she/we were being punished, to confess our lack of faith, and to live our lives out of the belief she had been healed (i.e., stop seeking medical help for her, especially when her life was at risk, as “proof” of our faith). Make her get out of bed. Make her see this illness is not real; what is real is the health God promises every believer.

All of this is one of the main reasons Karis cites in her journals for wanting her story written down. She wanted believers to understand the deeper grace God offers when he chooses not to heal someone physically. “If God heals me—gives me a brand-new intestine—that story will make a big splash,” she wrote. “For a little while, many people will be excited. But quickly it will become old news. Instead, for as many days or years God gives me, I want to show people a different kind of grace—the grace that allows me to praise God even through my pain. The doors that open for me exactly because I am disabled. The compassion God has given me for all who suffer, with any kind of pain, whether physical, emotional, social, or mental. The joy greater than my circumstances that wells up from the Spirit inside me. That’s what I want people to see when they look at my life: not a ‘big splash,’ but the daily faithfulness of God, available to everyone, everywhere, in any condition of life.”

Karis’s journals, from age 9 until the week before her last coma, age 30

So, imagine how intrigued I was to hear Jesus’s words to Little James on the screen last night. You’ll find the conversation at 53:12-59:44 on Episode 2 of The Chosen Season 3, called “Two by Two.” I’ve transcribed it, but will wait until the next post to quote part of the conversation for you. I hope meanwhile you’ll take the time to watch it.

In fact, God did perform miracles in Karis’s life. Huge miracles that restored her again and again when the doctors told us (again) that this time there was no hope, from infancy on. But never “the big miracle,” the big splash. Her story is both bigger and deeper than that, to the glory of God.

At the end of the conversation, Jesus starts to walk away. Then he turns back and says to Little James, “Your healing will come. It’s just a matter of time.”

That is true for every one of us.

Your sacred center

But Jesus takes his orders from the Father

Mark 1:35-38 Before daybreak, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. Later Simon and the others went out to find him. When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well. … That is why I came.”

John 5:19 Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing.”

Are you a people-pleaser? I certainly have been. I love knowing people are happy with me and with ways I try to serve them.

But do I shape my own sense of wellbeing around other people’s happiness with me? Ah, there’s the rub, right? Because in fact I am not responsible for whether other people feel happy.

Jesus made it clear to his disciples right away that he took his orders from the Father, not from them or from the people surrounding them. I’m sure this bothered some of the disciples.

And to understand the Father’s directions, Jesus had to spend time with him. Again and again in the Gospels we see him doing so.

I love the concept of having an audience of One, making my Father’s pleasure the center of my life. If I am spending time with him, submitting my priorities and desires to him, and following his direction as well as I can, I can better keep my balance I terms of all the other voices in my life and my natural desire to serve and care for the people I love.

Here’s another lovely passage from Henri Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love. The meditation is titled, “Set Boundaries to Your Love”:

You give whatever people ask of you, and when they ask for more, you give more, until you find yourself exhausted, used, and manipulated. Only when you are able to set your own boundaries will you be able to acknowledge, respect, and even be grateful for the boundaries of others … The great task is to claim yourself for yourself … True mutuality in love requires people who possess themselves and who can give to each other while holding on to their own identities. … You must learn to set boundaries to your love.

Later, Nouwen says, “the identity that makes you free is anchored beyond all human praise and blame. … Only God can fully dwell in that deepest place in you and give you a sense of safety. Don’t let others run away with your sacred center.” Amen.

Here’s a song to make you smile, a flashback to 1955. In light of this post, think of the lyrics directed to the Father.

Real authority

But Jesus came to serve

Mark 1:22 The people were amazed at Jesus’s teaching, for he taught with real authority, quite unlike the teachers of religious law.

Mark 10:42-45 Jesus called his disciples together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant … for even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Philippians 2:5-7, 14 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. … Live clean, innocent lives as children of God.

One of my favorite books when I was a child was The Scarlet Pimpernel, published in 1905 by Baroness Orczy. I loved the fact that Sir Percy led a double life, apparently a wealthy fop, but secretly risking his life to save others. The ridicule Percy experienced actually protected him–no one suspected he could be the one carrying out amazing heroic deeds. Orczy wrote this long before Marvel popularized the idea of a superhero who seemed a mild-mannered, ineffectual, or unremarkable person. In fact–just after writing that–I read on Wikipedia that Stan Lee, the Marvel co-creator, read The Scarlet Pimpernel as a boy and has called Sir Percy the first character who could be called a superhero.

I’m not sure I can agree with Stan Lee, and you probably anticipate what I’m going to say. The Gospels show us members of Jesus’s family and his neighbors not thinking there was anything special about Jesus. He was looked down on for his humble place in society, for coming from a nothing place (“Can anything good come from Nazareth?”), for not having wealth or credentials or position. He was killed like a common criminal.

Yet Jesus’s words and acts as a teacher, a healer, a servant, and a redeemer have impacted the world, transforming lives, for two thousand years.

In the current film series “The Chosen,” early episodes show us Jesus playing with children. In the episode about Jesus healing the paralytic let down through the roof, kids watch the spectacle from another roof nearby. OCD Matthew awkwardly climbs up beside them and starts to tell the children who Jesus is. “We know him,” they nod, startling Matthew. We can imagine Matthew’s churning thoughts: Who is this man?

By Allen Hogan. I couldn’t find one of the kids on the wall with Matthew.

Real authority comes not from words alone, but from deeds and attitudes that match the words, done not to garner attention but out of love. It’s called integrity. Some of integrity’s fruits are safety and trustworthiness. I love this passage from Henri Nouwen’s little book, The Inner Voice of Love (pages 49 and 50):

A part of you was left behind very early in your life … it is full of fears. Meanwhile, you grew up with many survival skills. But you want your self to be one. So you have to bring home the part of you that was left behind. That is not easy, because you have become quite a formidable person, and your fearful part does not know if it can safely dwell with you. … Jesus dwells in your fearful, never fully received self. Where you are most human, most yourself, weakest, there Jesus lives. Bringing your fearful self home is bringing Jesus home. As long as your vulnerable self does not feel welcomed by you, it keeps so distant that it cannot show you its true beauty and wisdom. Thus, you survive without truly living. … When you become more childlike, your small, fearful self will no longer feel the need to dwell elsewhere. It will begin to look to you as home. Be patient … Gradually you will become one, and you will find that Jesus is living in your heart and offering you all you need.

Nothing enchants me more than discovering quiet integrity. It’s as thrilling now in real life as it was for me through fiction as a child. And no one embodies this more than Jesus, loving us in the past, the present, and the future.

This is an old song with a still-relevant message.

Being human is good

But Jesus, fully God, is fully human as well

Mark 1:1 This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God … John [the Baptist] baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are my beloved Son, and you bring me great joy.”

Hebrews 4:15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do.

2 Peter 1:2-3 May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord. By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.

During these seven weeks of Epiphany, I want to look at the question, “Who is this man?” from the perspective of the Gospel of Mark. Mark isn’t part of our lectionary readings this year, but I’ve written a lot in the past from Matthew, Luke, and John and have neglected Mark.

Since I’m on vacation, I invite you to listen to Kevin Antlitz’s New Year’s sermon, “What Christmas teaches us about being human.” Our problem is not that we’re human; it’s that we’re not human enough, as Jesus was. Kevin cites St. Gregory: “What Jesus does not assume [we could use the word “incarnate” here], he does not heal.”

Happy listening!!

This is the irrational season

When love blooms bright and wild.

Had Mary been filled with reason

There’d have been no room for the child.

—Madeleine L’Engle

Twelve drummers drumming

But God sent his Son for everyone

Psalm 145:21 I will praise the Lord, and may everyone on earth bless his holy name forever and ever.

Psalm 24:9-10 Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter. Who is the King of glory? The Lord of Heaven’s Armies—he is the King of glory.

Psalm 102:15 The nations will fear the name of the Lord. All the kings of the earth will revere your glory.

John 3:16-17 For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

Drumroll please! Because January 6 is a very special day.

In some parts of the world, it’s the day of the Three Kings, Día de los Reyes, the day children receive gifts in commemoration of the magi who followed a star from far-off lands to recognize and honor the baby Jesus with their worship and their gifts.

It’s the day called Epiphany, the day of revelation to the world that this child born in a stable to humble parents is the King of kings for all nations, not only for Israel.

In Eastern traditions, it’s called Theophany, to remember the revelation at Jesus’s baptism, when God’s voice from Heaven declared Jesus to be his beloved Son, and the Holy Spirit attested to this in the form of a dove.

In every case, believers ask on this day for greater and clearer revelation of who Jesus was, is, and will be. “Open my eyes, Lord. I want to see Jesus.”

So, I like the drummers drumming on the twelfth day, reminding us the King is coming! We must prepare our hearts to receive and honor him!

Shutterstock: kzww

Whatever the origin of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” published in England at least as early as 1780 and popularized in its now-standard version by Frederic Austin in 1909, the number twelve reminds me as well of the twelve apostles, whose task it was to reveal Jesus to the world as the resurrected Christ, the Anointed One (Acts 1:22).

We are invited to share in this joyful task, to beat our drums for the King of kings as we await his full revelation to the world, saying with the Apostle John, Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus.