Marooned in their homes, many Americans made the best of the early days of the pandemic by sorting through old boxes of family artifacts. One Saturday morning in March 2020, Dan Larsen and his wife were doing just that when they discovered the world’s only verified photographic image of Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith Jr. Larsen, […]
Happy New Year! And, perhaps more importantly, Happy Epiphany. In the Christian tradition, Epiphany is a time of “showing” (epiphany means “appearance”); it celebrates the arrival of the Magi, who traveled from afar to bring Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. In this last of the six weekly devotions we’re taking from God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas, we look again to Dietrich Bonhoeffer for wisdom as we depart one season for another–a season called, prosaically enough in the liturgical calendar, “ordinary time.”
In our culture, we’ve already had our gift-giving, and January is a time of retrenchment. Our post-Christmas “epiphany” is often that we have overspent, overeaten, and overindulged. We look at the credit card statements and the numbers on the scale and know it is time to gather in and hunker down.
January is often also a time of worry: we fret about money, depression, or the future. The glow of the holiday season has now settled into a dusty veneer. But Bonhoeffer encourages us to abandon worry for the serene knowledge that we belong wholly to God:
Possessions delude the human heart into believing that they provide security and a worry-free existence, but in truth they are the very cause of worry. For the heart that is fixed on possessions, they come with a suffocating burden of worry. Worries lead to treasure, and treasure leads back to worry. We want to secure our lives through possessions; through worry we want to become worry free, but the truth turns out to be the opposite. The shackles that bind us to possessions, that hold us fast to possessions, are themselves worries. The misuse of possessions consists in our using them for security for the next day. Worry is always directed toward tomorrow. In the strictest sense, however, possessions are intended only for today. It is precisely the securing of tomorrow that makes me so insecure today. “Today’s trouble is enough for today” (Matt. 6:34b). Only those who place tomorrow in God’s hands and receive what they need to live today are truly secure. Receiving daily liberates us from tomorrow. Thought for tomorrow delivers us up to endless worry.
I have a difficult time not worrying. As January begins, I am heading back into the classroom to teach at the university level for the first time in over a decade; this is in addition to my editing job and my other responsibilities. It’s hard to see how it will all come together. But this week is Epiphany, and one great epiphany is that God cares every hair on our heads.