By The Rev. Sherry Deets
Epiphany – January 1, 2012
Happy New Year! Happy Epiphany! Today we celebrate the church feast of Epiphany and begin that church season. So what is Epiphany you ask?
Well, Epiphany means, a “showing forth,” or the “revealing of something,” that previously had not been seen. A modern writer described an epiphany as, “an AHA moment,” the moment when the light bulb goes on above our heads.
The word epiphany means an appearance or manifestation, particularly of a divine being –– or an illuminating discovery, especially one that comes unexpectedly.
Epiphany marks the first manifestation of Jesus to the Gentiles. It signals that God loves Gentiles as well as Jews –– that God’s plan of salvation includes Gentiles too. That might seem a moot point now –– of academic interest only. The church has embraced Gentiles for centuries. Most Christians today are Gentiles. Isn’t this a dead issue?
It would be a dead issue if Epiphany were only about the inclusion of Gentiles in the church. That is hardly the case, however. Epiphany is much more. It is a celebration of the breaking down of dividing walls –– the end of hostilities between groups of people (Ephesians 2:14). Epiphany challenges us to reconsider all the people whom we see as outside the pale –– outside the boundaries of God’s love. It challenges us to abandon our tribalism (racially, nationally, denominationally, etc.) and to expand our tents to welcome even those whom we would prefer not to love. It is a burning issue, because loving those outside our tribe is difficult––but Christ makes it possible. That is the Epiphany message.
Matthew tells us of the wise men, gentiles, who observed a star and came in search of the child, born king of the Jews. Not unheard of in that day – the idea that heavenly signs marked the births and deaths of great leaders was widely accepted. What they saw excited them, even enough to make them drop what they were doing and follow the star.
There is a wonderful lesson for us right there – these three (or four, or however many) met God in the midst of doing what they were supposed to do: they were at work. God is not limited to meeting with us in a certain place (a church) or at a certain hour. God can and does speak to us ANYWHERE and ANYTIME. The lesson is BE ALERT!
According to Mary Rose O’Reilley, miracles can happen “on the edges of time zones, on the border of the woods, in the void between perch and free fall.” They happen in small towns and small churches and even outside them. They happen when people who are apart, come together: clueless but obedient and hopeful magi, and even a scheming and violent king under a star,
In a little bit, we will sing the hymn, We Three Kings of Orient Are”. This hymn puts us unmistakably as participants in the sacred story. It does not begin “Those three kings,” but “We three kings.” You and I find ourselves on the road to Bethlehem, dressed in royal attire, and our hands hold presents for the new monarch whose birth is foretold in the night sky. It is we who carry to the stable our gold and frankincense and myrrh. This gospel story does not tell simply what happened once, but it tells what happens, or can happen, in our lives here and now.
Perhaps no bright star beams above, a sign of some tremendous event; perhaps we need not muddy our boots by long travel across “field and fountain, moor and mountain”; yet still, ours is a royal dignity, we are created in God’s image, and we can enjoy no rest until we look upon the King of glory face to face.
Like the magi, God will lead us home, but it’s apt to be a different journey than we had expected, with lots of twists and turns and detours along the way. Notice that the magi, the wise men, went home by a different route.
We stand at the threshold of a new calendar year. Who knows what twists, turns and detours lie ahead and what effect they’re going to have on our lives? Of course, we’re not the first to face the uncertainty of the future. Like those who’ve gone before us, scripture beckons us to look to God to order and provide. The Psalmist writes, The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalms 27:1)
We look to the light. The light of Christ in our lives. And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. Amen.
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