Today will be longer than yesterday. Today we will have more
daylight than we had yesterday – one minute more. Tomorrow we’ll gain another
minute. The light is coming back. Slowly and almost imperceptibly the days are
getting longer, the dark of winter is over.
And today we celebrate the Epiphany –of the Christ child,
the light of the world. We get the word from the Greek epiphaneia which means “a manifestation or striking appearance.” In
modern usage, an epiphany is a breakthrough which seems to come out of the
blue, but only after a problem has been considered for some time. In other
words, you have to do your homework before you get an epiphany.
The manifestation of God in the form of a human child, shown
in today’s Gospel to the three wise men from the East, did not happen suddenly
without any preparation. Six hundred years before Jesus, Isaiah had declared
“Arise, shine for your light has come” -words which we now take to refer to
Jesus the Christ. It seems that the writer of Matthew wanted us to make that
association as he has the magi bringing gold and frankincense just as Isaiah
says. The Jewish people had been preparing for the coming of the Messiah for
We don’t know how long the three men from Iraq
or Iran had
been preparing for their journey. But it was probably quite a while. Although
our Christmas card and carols give the impression that the shepherds showed up
the first night with the magi rapidly on their heels, it was probably a year or
more before they arrived in Bethlehem.
According to Matthew’s account, Joseph and Mary must have found a place to live
and stayed in Bethlehem for long
enough for the amazing star to appear at Christ’s birth and guide the
star-gazing Easterners to his crib-side.
Their epiphany seemed to come out of the blue – an astonishing
star, perhaps a comet, appears in the night sky and leads them to take a long
journey to find the child it portends. Amazingly they interpret it as having to
do with a child and specifically with one who has been born the King of the
Jews. What did they do to get so wise? Probably they had been studying
prophecies as well as astrology for many years before.
I suspect that we sometimes look for an epiphany in our own
lives without having done the preparation. I know that that was what Advent was
about and now we can move on to glorious light and revelation… but not so fast.
The work of advent is never done – we long for the moments of epiphany when
suddenly, apparently effortlessly we have a new revelation of the divine – but
these rarely come unless we have been doing our own spiritual work.
Most of us don’t need to learn astronomy or prophecies in
order to prepare for the possibility of epiphany. Most of us have much humbler
paths, but they are not necessarily easier. Our paths are in the daily living
of spiritual lives, the daily turning to Christ, daily finding things which
block the Christ-light from shining in and through us, and the daily work to
remove those blocks in cooperation with Spirit.
“Arise, shine,” says the prophet, “for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has
risen upon you.” This is in a whole different category from “this little light
of mine”… “Your light has come does not mean” that we get to be shiny and get
noticed by everyone around us. This light is God’s light which can shine in and
through us. There is nothing that we can do to bring this light into our lives.
It’s pure gift. The light of God came into the world in Jesus Christ – he is
the human embodiment of divine light. Because of his gift, it is possible for
us to shine with the light of God, and in fact it is our calling to shine with
God’s light, because we are called to be the sons and daughters of God and to
light itself – that is God. Our job is to do the work of preparation. Our job
is to invite the Holy Spirit to work in our lives to remove all the blocks, the
hindrances, the – dare I say it – sin, that prevents the Christ light from shining
should we do it? It’s not for the moments of ecstasy, it’s not for the times of
joy when the light suddenly blazes in a new way, it’s not for the moments of
epiphany, wonderful though they are. It is because the world needs us.
loved the world
that He sent his only
begotten son. That’s what it’s all about – and we have a role in the redemption
of the world, in bringing all things into reconciliation with God. Amazingly,
as the daughters and sons of God, we are part of God’s plan for salvation! It
is through you and me that God has chosen to bring about the completion of her
face of it it doesn’t seem like a very smart move. But that’s our God for you! Despite
their learning and wisdom, the three wise men didn’t think to look for the
Light of the World in the tiny city of Bethlehem
– they went to the court, where you would expect to find a
king. But God didn’t choose to become human in the center of power, God chose to
become human in the modest outskirts of Jewish society.
live in the centers of power. Few of us have influential friends. None of us
have the money to change the cause of elections or influence politicians. But
all of us have been given the power to become the children of God. All of us have
been given the power to manifest the light of God. All of us are called to
bring peace, healing and yes, even salvation to the world - always remembering
that it is a gift given to us, a gift that we are given to share. A gift that
grows in the sharing.
shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.