Matthew 2: 1-12


January 5, 2020

Lincoln Street UMC, Portland, Oregon

Elizabeth Winslea

Here we are at the end and at another beginning. Today marks the last day of Christmas - technically, that’s actually tomorrow, January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany.

But here at Lincoln Street Church, today in worship we remember the story of the magi and their journey, their vision and their gifts, and we close out our season of Christmas, when we find such joy in celebrating the arrival of the Christ in the form of an infant, startling those who paid attention.

So we finish up a beloved season, one that is full of memories and traditions.

One that holds our loss and grief as well, as promises forgone or death has stripped us of important relationships. But a beloved season even so, one that bewitches us with the offer of a child, an infant, who in all his innocence helps us to take a deep breath and hope once again in the future.

This season of Christmas closes upon us today, just as another opens.

In we have marched into another year. Another decade in fact.

2020 has come upon us, with all the questions and curiosities a new year often brings.

Where might I be living in a year?

What work will I be doing?

Who will be my family?

How much will my children have grown? have learned?

Will I finally take up that new hobby?

Finish the basement? Clean the garage?

And from the daily, quotidian aspects of our lives, we find ourselves at this juncture also pondering our faith journey and the questions that stir.

What will my relationship to the church be?

What will this church - this denomination - be?

What will I continue to uphold in my faith?

What will I allow to slough off?

What new inspiration or vision will I capture that will take me to new depths this year?

How will this year write itself upon my heart?

As we close out Christmas and open another year, in the calendar of the church year we move into the season of Epiphany. Beginning this morning with the story of the magi, we enter that time of our lectionary cycle when we are invited to listen once again to stories of how others have caught a vision and leapt up and out into something new. How they have allowed themselves to listen to out of the way places of their hearts and heed a call that often made no sense, and often brought with it a great deal of uncertainty and no small portion of inner turmoil.

And yet, that is not what we remember. We don’t document the anxiety and the anguish and the countless questions one asks oneself in the journey of the new. That is not what is recorded here for us this morning.

Instead, what we hear about is a star, and a plan, and a visit to a child that made all the difference, such that the travelers could not go home the way they came, for they had been indelibly changed. That is what we remember and honor.

That starlight can shine through the thickest clouds and stir us up in ways we didn’t know we needed stirring.

And that the vision that comes from such starlight often has us seeing our world in a whole new way - or at least ourselves.

In the twinkle of a night sky we can try on different strengths and interests. We awaken to adventure and under cloak of night throw off our garments of caution and instead light our way forward with a good dose of risk.

We are reminded this morning that this practice of faith calls us just like it did our ancestors - calls us into new territories, calls us beyond the “seduction of safety.”[1] And it promises that it is worth the effort. Worth the hard work of asking the questions and taking the risks that carry us into new ventures and understandings.

How will this year write itself upon your heart?

We have here at Lincoln Street a growing tradition of receiving a new word each year - to mark the entrance into another year of seeking epiphanies. These star words wink a little light at you, and shine into a unexplored corner of your spirit. They are no magic indicator. But just like starlight, they might shine just bright enough, nudge you in the side just that little bit enough. Enough to follow the magi, and seek new growth.

We close the Christmas season but we do not say goodbye to the Christ child. For when we set out as people of Epiphany, we do so with the spirit of the Christ closely at hand. “Soon you will be home in a new rhythm” as the starlight of epiphany urges you onward. Can’t you “sense how the world awaits you”?[2]

How will this year write itself upon your heart?


This sermon was written by Elizabeth Winslea and delivered on January 5, 2020 at Lincoln Street United Methodist Church. It is published here with the permission of the author. Please link back to this post and credit the author if you reprint or use any portion of it.


[1]  John O’Donohue, “For a New Beginning” in To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings, Doubleday © 2008, page 14.

[2] O’Donohue.