Today the Magi gaze in deep wonder at what they see: heaven on earth, earth in heaven, a human being in God, God in a human being, one whom the whole universe cannot contain, now enclosed in a tiny body. (St. Peter Chrysologous)
Dear Lord, free me from my dark past into which I often feel myself falling as if into a deep cistern … You who are light, do not let me sink back into my own dark pit … but let your warm, gentle-life-giving light lift me from my own grave … As long as I keep my eyes on you, there is no reason to return to past events, past patterns, past ideas. In your light, all becomes new … Amen. (Henri Nouwen)
Next to the birth of Jesus (Nativity) …. no other story seems to stir the imagination like the picture created with the arrival of the magi/the astrologers/the kings/the wise men. There are these three characters with their camels … their three gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. There is the Star in the Sky … there is the drama of King Herod. There is the music … “We three Kings of Orient Are…”
AND IN THE LAND OF MARDI GRAS … it is 12th Night … time to begin the Carnival Season.
A preacher has so many springboards for thought …. are we still seeking like these searchers? What gift do we bring? What/Who are we looking for? Are we open to a change in plans as the wise men who were sent home by a different route?
There is the play on words … beth (house) … lehem (of bread) and those who came to find Jesus … the bread of life …in the manger.
There are the issues of justice … Jesus welcomed FOREIGNERS … non-Jews, who had no passports or papers … but who simply wandered around. Of course, we know that Jesus, Mary and Joseph would soon become refugees [immigrants] who had to flee their homeland out of fear of persecution …death … at the hands of King Herod.
We know of course that this was the FIRST of many epiphanies (manifestations) of Jesus as the Son of God … there was the epiphany at his baptism … the epiphany at Cana …. the epiphany at the raising of Lazarus …. the epiphany at the multiplication of loaves and fishes …. in other words, God did not keep it a secret that He was among us …. Jesus was shown … manifested …. over and over so that people with eyes of faith could see/find him if they but had their eyes open.
But …. my question …. what have been the epiphanies in our lives …. who/what has shown God to be real and alive among us …. epiphanies give hope … they shine light …. who/what/where have we found that light, that hope? Are there still epiphanies for the world?
LET’S START WITH THE CHURCH …both our denomination as well as our local community: Unless the Church and its ministers … and its ministries … without exception and without condition … is seen as a place, a people of gathering, of welcoming … well then, it will no longer authentically reflect the mind, the heart, the presence of Jesus in the world.
For that to happen, we need to embody the words of Isaiah (60:1-6): Rise up in splendor … your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; but upon you the Lord shines, and over you appears his glory. Think of this past week: was there darkness or light coming from your words and deeds? was there darkness or light in your hearts? What did you manifest to the world?
Is my Church an epiphany for me? Or, do I see God shining somewhere else and find life and hope there?
Did we see light shine when the soldier walking in the Rose Parade surprised his wife and son?
At a Rotary meeting this week, I heard a report from the local Salvation Army that during a normal year, the “bell ringers” of our area would collect $65,000 at Christmas time. This year they collected double …. $130,000 … in the midst of economic hard times. Wow!
What about the police officers from neighboring towns who worked in Newtown, CT so that local officers could have the day off. Did you see that, did you hear that?
What about the amazing story of the young girl from Pakistan who showed so much courage that she almost lost her life because she was willing to stand up to those who tried to deny education to young girls. That inspires me!
There is so much about the “first” epiphany that we do not know …. were there really 3 … did they come right after the birth of Jesus … or a year later … or two years later? None of that matters. BUT, IT DOES MATTER that God has shown “himself” to be God for all people …. and that God continues to make the presence of God known in our time.
Maybe in prayer … or upon reflection … you had an “Ahah moment” … when something became clear. When the “cloud of unknowing” gave way to clarity …. and you knew something for the first time. You had wondered before, but now you know ….. that is an epiphany.
In Ephesians [3:2, 5-6] we are reminded that the mystery of God was [is] made known to us through revelation.
For me, it would be sad to think that this is just a day of remembering what happened 2,000 years ago. Instead, this should be a day of being reminded …. reminded that God continues to show himself, to be made known …. the ANSWERS may not be written in the sky, but the answers are being made known. We see one thing with eyes of our body, and another thing with the faith-filled eyes of the heart/mind.
I have truly come to enjoy … and depend upon … the GPS system in my car. Printed maps from Mapquest are longer needed. Stopping to ask directions is no longer required. That nice voice …. I have named Gabrielle …. tells me when to turn and leads me right to where I want to go.
Remember Paul McCartney’s “Long and Winding Road? Well, we are all on it …. we are not alone … and God walks with us to show us the way.
Our world needs a new vision. Our Church needs a new vision. I need a new vision. God has shown the way and he continues to show the way. Let’s stop, look, and listen … I am confident that we will see and we will know the way for our lives. The star(s) still shines!
The only journey is the one within. (Rainer Maria Wilke)