It starts somewhere high atop a mountain with a trickle of water: perhaps a bit of ice-melt from the fallen snow, maybe something bubbling up from an underground spring. Whatever it is, though, it doesn’t amount to much as the water starts to drip downward, following cracks and crevices worn into the rocks and soil – but then something happens. Before long, the trickle of water has become a brook, winding through hill, valley and pucker brush, all the while growing in size and current, fed by countless other trickles of water as it flows.
Follow the brook for a few miles, and you discover it’s now become something of a stream, making its way past houses, farms and fields, through villages and beneath trestles, ever widening as it flows. Soon it’s a rushing river, a source of energy and industry; keep going and it’s grown to become a basin, a river delta, “the bay,” places of transportation, and where at long last, the river meets the sea in all its vastness, ebb and flow. All this coming from a tiny trickle of water high atop a snowy mountain!
As we move through Advent and Christmas and now begin the season of Epiphany, we focus our attention on the light that has come into our world in the birth of Jesus Christ. What’s interesting is that quite literally, this light began its shining in a small manger in Bethlehem which itself was dark save for the light of a star overhead, at a birthing attended by a precious few – only Mary and Joseph, a few shepherds, and visitors from an eastern land. Few others even noticed the light that had come into the world!
But what we discover through the gospel story is that from this small place the light of God’s love begins to grow, brighten and expand its scope – ever widening from person to person, village to village, until that light filled all of Israel and beyond, its good news stretching farther and farther across the world to encompass all of creation. Neither Herod’s slaughter of innocent children, nor the legalistic taunting of scribes and Pharisees; not even Jesus’ very death upon a cross at the hands of those he loved could extinguish the light, nor keep it from spreading. For this was God’s intention, the purpose of Christ’s coming: to embrace us with the light of his love, enveloping each one of us, reconciling you, me and the whole world to God, and, in the process of this reconciliation bringing us nourishment, enrichment and life both abundant and eternal.
Like a trickle of water that eventually becomes a river flowing into the sea, it’s indeed an amazing thing to consider just how wide is this embrace of God – how you and I have been blanketed by such a love that transcends time, culture, experience, and even the very nature of our humanity. But just as amazing as the fact that God’s embrace includes you and me, is the truth that through our baptism, it continues and widens with you and me as well.
I’ve always been struck by the fact that so much of the gospel story is about call and response …and call! Jesus calls the disciples to follow him, and immediately “they left their nets and followed him,” (Matthew 4:20) the beginning of a journey that would encompass their entire lives and by extension, the lives of countless others. Likewise, John’s gospel tells of two disciples asking Jesus where he was staying, and when Jesus invites them to “come and see,” they go and remain with him for the rest of the day – and then they invite others to “come and see” as well!
The telling of good news; the wider ministry of Christ; the spread of Christianity: the building of the church: it all starts with an invitation – come and see – and one by one, person by person, they seek him out. The light of God grows in scope, the Gospel is proclaimed and good news is received and shared! This is how faith grows – in the world, and in you and me. Indeed, for most of us, faith came about because somebody, somewhere first told us about it – a family member, a friend, a Sunday School teacher, maybe even a minister (!) – someone who invited us by word or by action to find out more about Jesus and pursue faith in our own lives. And just as God moved these people to reach out to us in love, so God calls us do the same for others!
Each one of us as Christians are called to envelop others in the same loving embrace of God in which we are held; we are called to invite them to “come and see” what we already know. Never underestimate the power or resilience of “a trickle” of God’s love in Christ manifest in you and me! So, in the words of that old song, “let the love come a-tricklin’ down,” because before you know it that love will surround you – and everybody else – in its embrace!
c. 2013 Rev. Michael W. Lowry