I’ve always found the phoenix to be a fascinating (mythical) creature. Though it isn’t a Christian image per se, it definitely fits with the Christian’s walk of faith, the imagery fits quite nicely with resurrection as well, which is probably while some early Church Fathers, like Clement, used it as a type of Christ.
It’s a fascinating story. The phoenix was mostly red, with a tail-full of gold feathers and would live anywhere from 500-1000 years. Then, when it was ready to procreate, it would migrate (most believed to Egypt), build its nest out of twigs (Clement wrote that it was out of frankincense and myrrh- referring to Christ), then lay down and set itself on fire. I feel like that might be a bit much, but hey, the bird can do what it wants. The true beauty of the story, as most are generally familiar with, is that from the carnage and ashes, a tiny little phoenix would find life. The phoenix would find its sustenance from the ashes of the old and new life would emerge. The baby phoenix, once it was strong enough, would the emerge from the destruction that was its home, and would find a life of beauty for 500-1000 years afterward.
Startlingly powerful imagery. Like Clement, I find it to be of incredible value to the Christian faith. It’s clearly a type for the death and resurrection of Jesus- but it also has implications for our own lives. As we ponder the year that has passed and dream (sometimes fear) the year set before us, the phoenix is an image to guide us.
Maybe 2011 was a great year for you, maybe it was the worst year you’ve ever experienced. Maybe you’re in the middle of the greatest blessings you’ve ever received, or maybe you’re in the depths of despair wondering where God might be. I like to view 2011 as the old phoenix building its nest- and 2012 holding some wonderful things ahead.
Don’t get me wrong- 2011 has been a great year for me. I married my best friend, developed even greater friendships with people that I value greatly, answered God’s call on my life to enter into ministry, and built friendships and Godly community with two fantastic faith communities this year!
My heart still breaks for those who experienced the roughest year of their lives. If this has been a tough year for you, I encourage you to look to the future. 2012 looks to be a great year, regardless of what stupid predictions clutter the media, presidential outcomes, or economic quality. I am fully convinced that God has something incredible for those who trust in Him and His Son. Will it be devoid of pain and hurt? No way! Will it be difficult? Absolutely. Just like the baby phoenix that must grow from the destruction of its past, so too must we learn from the mistakes of our past. My personal experience has been that God will wreck me when my goals and priorities are not oriented around Him. But if you can come away from the wreckage with a repentant heart and humility, Christ can do amazing work in your life. It might not be the Benz or the big house- but it will be something greater.
Beauty in the midst of pain. Joy in spite of adversity.
Any of you who know me well know that I’m not an optimist necessarily, but I truly believe that God will be moving this year, and if we orient ourselves to Christ, and make everything we do about Him that is when he can truly use your life.
Christ has called every Christian to die to our old selves, like the phoenix, and emerge a new creation. This year, may we die to the old to make way for the new.
May we always remember that we are nothing, by our own power, but Christ can take fisherman, tax-collectors and whores and change the world through them. Let us seek Christ with a diligent heart this year, and be renewed by his restoring presence.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-19