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An Epiphany – Jesus, January, and Jazz

We are leaving the Advent/Christmas Season when January 6th arrives. In the Christian tradition, January 6th, is Epiphany which is celebrated as the time of magi visit to the "baby, toddler, young" Jesus. As I stated in last Sunday's sermon, it has been speculated that these stargazers from the East did not arrive to Bethlehem until Jesus was around two years of age. They saw him, as Matthew's gospel said, in a house not a manger.

Over the years, many different definitions have been given to the word,Epiphany. While the Christian tradition would say it is the recognition of Gentiles illuminated by their visit to the King of the Jews. Some definitions of the word have been "a flash of insight;" a light that shines in the darkness; a season of new beginnings. In the Western Church calendar it says the Epiphany season lasts until the first day of Lent.

And still other definitions such as those shared in a Psychology Today article by Elise Ballard include:

"an intuitive grasp of reality," "an illuminating discovery, realization, disclosure, or insight," or simply "a revealing scene or moment..."a moment of sudden or great revelation that usually changes you in some way."

So, you may be wondering how I got out of "Epiphany: Jesus, January, and Jazz?" It came to me as an "illuminating discovery, insight, and of course, I knew much of the text in January focus on Jesus — magi visit, baptism, etc. Yes, I know that doesn't get us to "jazz." Stay with me here.

Someone once said that "jazz is a musical form that relies on improvisation and rhythmic urgency. Improvisation is a primary way that jazz musicians express themselves, requiring them to be inventive and create music on the spot. Such musical artists often do this by changing melodies rhythmically or embellishing the melody.

Jazz music reminds me of this season of the year — January. We are supposed to have dark and dreary days with snow and cold temperatures. The excitement of the Advent/Christmas Season is gone. Many of us make resolutions on January 1st only to see ourselves saying, "Why did I ever think I could keep that resolution!" Yet, jazz musicians find a rhythm, a sense of urgency within their music. However, they are also willing to be "illuminated" by embellishing a melody. It seems, that jazz musicians find a "sweet spot" to get into the music that speaks a message.

I hope that as we read the stories about Jesus, we try to find "some illumination" (some light to shine in the darkness of discord) in our hopes, dreams, and forward — looking ways to the newness of the Spring in the midst of the dark and dreary of January and the winter. And, I hope that a flavor of jazz music can help illuminate us and envelope us in the "rhythm of God" that is present even during the dark days of winter.

I hope you will join us for the journey through Epiphany! And thanks to all for the gifts and cards that have illuminated your love for me and enveloped me this Advent/Christmas Season.

Pastor Steve

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