Merry Christmas!

That’s right, it’s Christmas Day today — in Ethiopia (where the Orthodox Church uses the old Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian calendar of the West). I will be heading there with 18 other pilgrims from Trinity Church in 12 days to celebrate the Epiphany with tens of thousands of other pilgrims from across Ethiopia, Africa, and the world.

The feast of Timkat is like nothing I’ve ever seen — at once solemn and off-the-charts exuberant. The religious life in general in Ethiopia is like nothing I’ve ever seen — Christian since the 4th century, its popular devotion is vivid and heartfelt, and practiced much as it has been for over a thousand years; its an immersion in an earlier age. Ethiopian culture itself stands out strikingly — as the one country of Africa that was never colonized, it traces its lineage to the great kingdoms of the ancient world, Axum, and Saba (Sheba) before that.

Nine years ago I led my first Epiphany pilgrimage there, and ever since I’ve been planning for the day I could lead pilgrims from Trinity back there. I’m so grateful to finally be able to share the aliveness of that religious culture. I hope that, more than just the 18 of us going, many more who follow my blog or Instagram feed can taste the aliveness of the place and the people.

I’m am more convinced than ever of the value of pilgrimage. It is a lens for travel and for daily life that by its liminal nature leads to discovery and transformation. The etymology of pilgrim means “one who crosses a boundary.” It’s the opposite of building a wall. The apostle Paul said as much when he wrote:

Christ is our peace, who has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us, so that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. (Ephesians 2:14-16)

That’s the real journey the 18 of us are on together — crossing boundaries of the heart to discover God in all places, things, and people. One doesn’t need to cross a dozen times zones to do that, but sometimes the displacement of a literal pilgrimage helps jolt the soul into seeing more deeply into the truth of things.

Pray for the pilgrims as we travel. You can follow us in several ways (provided we have an internet connection!):
On Instagram at: @countrypriest
On Facebook at www.facebook.com/RevDanielSimons
On my blog at www.inthemomentreflections.net

I wrote the following to the Ethiopia pilgrims today, and I offer the same invitation to everyone reading this — since we’re all on the same journey through life together:

We are already on pilgrimage. It started long ago, when you first felt the call to come on this pilgrimage. It’s easy in the final days to get a little frantic with all the last minute wrap-up at work, home, etc., and so it’s worth the time to take time with yourself to anticipate the journey, to get in touch with your hopes and fears, to reconnect to your passion for this trip, to ask for grace to be flexible and generous and playful and curious, and to do whatever else you feel called to do to get into this liminal, magical, daring, wondrous state of pilgrimage. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and it’s a vivid, concrete icon of your life’s journey. You are a pilgrim every day of your life, and you are at home wherever you are. Revel in the paradox!

The brightness of the Epiphany to you wherever you are.  See you (virtually) in Ethiopia!

Read more about why I take groups on pilgrimage here and here.