St. Matthew's Episcopal

Becoming Epiphany

Posted on: January 9th, 2017 by Robin Jarrell
Janet McKenzie

Epiphany by Artist Janet McKenzie

I will continue my practice of summarizing the sermon for the previous Sunday because in these turbulent times, it is important to keep the Good News ever before us.

Today we celebrate the Epiphany which actually happened last Friday, but our tradition allows us to mark the day on the first Sunday after the Epiphany.  The word “Epiphany” comes from a Greek word that means simply, “an appearing,” but for Christians the idea is more about the three eastern sages perceiving the incarnation, the “enfleshment,” of God in the child Jesus.

I’m sure that most folks know the story of the Three Kings who travel from a distant eastern land and at great expense in order to acknowledge the “King of the Jews.”  They have seen a great star and are following it to the foretold King.  And because the capital of Israel is Jerusalem, they naturally show up at King Herod’s palace and inquire about the child.  This has always struck me as amusing since clearly Herod thinks HE is the king of Israel, and thus, king of the Jews.  But the Magi don’t seem to be impressed.  And even though Herod is a megalomaniacal ruler who kills his own wife, he’s very shrewd.  He pretends to be interested in the birth of the new king (which, of course, he is, but not for reasons that the Magi are interested) and so he lies about wanting to “pay the child homage.”

The Magi set out for Bethlehem and find the promised child just where the star showed them he would be.  The star, of course, is a symbol of the divine light that appears inside the world yearning for the Messiah.  As we read in the prophet Isaiah, written so long ago, “Arise, shine, for your light has come.” This is an indication that the experience of Epiphany is meant to be twofold.  On the one hand, the Divine light comes into the world.  On the other hand, we have to go in search for that same Divine light.  Both processes are essential for Christians.

The other lesson of Epiphany for Christians is that in order to follow Jesus as our Savior, we must travel, both literally and figuratively.  We walk the Way of the Christ child with our sisters and brothers.  We press on to see Christ in our midst and in our travels with one another.  For I believe that the goal of every Christian is to BECOME the Epiphany.  We become the Epiphany when we realize that the same Christ light inside ourselves is the same light that shines in everyone.  We become the Epiphany when we understand that our close relationship to God is a light that shines for someone else.

The Epiphany light shines on in the darkness, and not even a oppressive corrupt ruler like Herod can keep the star from shining.  No earthly power has sway over the God who comes to be with us as a tiny helpless infant and who uses dreams to warn the Magi to return home without returning to Herod.  Nothing can stop God from coming into the world as God-With-Us.  Our collective Epiphany may be that this Divine light cannot be prevented from shining.  It is meant for all of us.  Yes, even – especially Herod.

 

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