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You Do the Math

I’ve been fascinated with science since I was a kid. I remember playing with a chemistry kit I received as a birthday gift and, to this day, I’m shocked I didn’t blow up my bedroom. I also wore out my Golden Nature Guidebooks.  Remember those? They were pocket-sized volumes that covered such subjects as insects, fish, birds, and rocks and minerals. My favorite, by far, was the book with the simple title, “Stars.” I pored over the illustrated pages that described far-off galaxies, comets, meteors, and planets. When I was 12, my folks gave me a Sears-Roebuck telescope for Christmas and the first time I caught the full moon in my refraction lens, goosebumps chased each other all over my arms.

I wore this book out as a kid.

I’m still drawn to science. Recently, I read this Forbes article that was very science-y, indeed. I got lost in the weeds quickly, because the author, Ethan Siegel, is an astrophysicist and astrophysicists write a lot about math. I do not have a mathematical mind. When I even try to do simple sums in my head, my eyes cross and my tongue hangs out.

As far as I can tell, the upshot of Siegel’s article is that the cosmos is fine-tuned for life (the headline tipped me off: “The Universe Really is Fine-Tuned”). Dr. Siegel goes deeply into the “what” of the fine-tuning, but not the “Who.” For that, the opening verses of the Bible are helpful.

This got me to thinking about Epiphany, which caps off the “Twelve Days of Christmas.” Epiphany plays second-string to Christmas Day in the United States, but in many parts of the world, it is a major observance in early January, complete with gift-giving, traditional sweets, and special church services. The word itself means “appearance” or “revelation,” as in, “The day after Christmas, I had an epiphany that I needed to go on a diet.” It’s a Greek word that originally described government officials showing up in a town.

Theologically, Epiphany is the recognition of God’s revelation in Christ. Christmas celebrates His birth in a small village; Epiphany trumpets the cosmic impact of His coming. In our Western culture, Christmas tends to lean on the secular and sentimental side. Nativity scenes are often mixed with Rudolph and Frosty, and a lot of people get the same warm fuzzies thinking about Santa and 8 lb, 6 oz Baby Jesus. Epiphany urges us to lift our eyes beyond the Manger to see the Power that set the star of Bethlehem in the skies — the One who, indeed, determined the number of all the stars and calls each by name (Psa 147:4).

Well, at least the Nativity scene is in the center. That’s something, I guess.

Epiphany, then, is no time to hold back our witness. The Light of the World has come! The Morning Star has risen! The God who fine-tuned the universe is also the God who visited this planet in the flesh, full of grace and truth. So get out there and proclaim this marvelous Epiphany news in your own way – even if it involves graphs and equations. Just make sure you dumb it down for those of us with math anxiety.


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