Epiphany – January 2, 2022
When I started this sermon I wrote “Well, we made it through. The darkest day of the year is behind us now, and the light each day is increasing. Light is what Epiphany is all about. Manifestation of light.”
And then suddenly there was lockdown AGAIN. And I felt a certain darkness fall around me again. Not again! I protested. But here we are, and I give thanks that we can be together no matter the means. And I am certainly not going to let a lockdown take any of the joy of Epiphany away from me. I love God and I love light and I want to celebrate that.
It is good to reflect on God and light together
- We have a God who created light:
The very first time we hear God’s voice, we hear God’s first command “‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness”.
- We have a God who himself is the light:
We read in John Chapter 1; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of the people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it”.
Jesus himself says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life”.
- We have a God who created us to also be the light of Christ:
Right at our baptism, we are marked with the sign of the cross making us Christ’s own forever, then we say “Receive the light of Christ to show that you have passed from darkness to light”. We join the church, the people of God. We join something far greater than just ourselves. As Paul writes in our Epistle today, “for you are all children of light and children of the day”.
- Finally we have a God who calls us to live as children of light – to be light bearers:
As children of light we are not called to sit around and do nothing, but to share the light of Christ with others. As the Collect for Epiphany says; Guide by your light the nations of the earth, that the whole world may know your glory.
Yes, light is what Epiphany is all about.
The prophet Isaiah prophesied about this light. He says: Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. He orders people; Lift up your eyes and look around…you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice.
What a change of tone. Gone are Isaiah’s words of judgment, now he proclaims words of comfort and hope. The dispersed will gather together and rejoice in the light of God.
Our Gospel tells us of the three wise men. It is believed that these Kings were also astronomers, they knew their stars. They knew this star was special. They simply had to seek it out, not knowing at all what they would find.
I have always thought of these Kings as being together. But think for a moment when each one saw this special star rising. Each one of them would have been in their own kingdom, each one of them would have made up their own mind to follow the star. It would have been only on the way, on the road, that they would have met up. Imagine their surprise at finding each other and then realizing they were all following the same star. A fantastic confirmation. They knew not what the result would be, but they knew they had to seek all together.
Then, the star stopped. And they stopped. At Bethlehem. They were overwhelmed with joy, but did not yet know why. Then they found Jesus, the source of their joy. The goal of their seeking. And in an instant the world turned upside down. Now, rather than having people bow down to them, as they gazed on the Christ child, they knew they must, for the first time in their lives, bow down.
Let me read to you what several versions of the Bible say exactly about their action as they saw Jesus:
– and they knelt down and paid him homage
– and they bowed down and worshipped him
– and falling to their knees, they did him homage
– and they fell down and worshipped him
– overcome, they kneeled and worshipped him
– they threw themselves down before him, worshipping
Wow, against their human nature
– for the first time in their lives, they too fell down,
And then, against their human nature
– for the first time in their lives, they too paid homage to another person,
And then, against their human nature
– for the first time in their lives, they worshipped their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
– in recognizing the source of their joy, they were able to move beyond human nature and give thanks to the divine nature that lay in front of them and indeed within them. This is where their seeking brought them. To God.
They knew now why they had followed the star, why they had been obedient, so they worshipped with their minds.
They knew why they had gifts to present, and they bowed down and worshipped with their bodies.
They knew now the very source of their joy and their souls were filled with light of the Christ child.
Mind, body and soul, they worshipped Jesus.
The epiphany or manifestation of the light of Christ in front of them allowed these kings to worship fully. And in so doing, they were transformed. The miracle of Epiphany. The Bible tells us “they left for their own country by another road”. Yes, I believe now Jesus had given them yet another road to continue with their seeking. Seeking to tell everyone of the light of Christ that they had seen and was within them.
This light of Christ came to the Apostle Paul in a different way. On the road to Taraus the light of Christ had blinded Paul. And in today’s reading we hear of Paul’s new understanding of the mystery of Christ; that is that Christ is for everyone, not just the faithful but for the gentiles too. Paul says; “This grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery…” God has revealed to Paul that God’s light is for everyone, and that everyone should be God’s light bearers. Later in Ephesians Paul writes; “For once you were in darkness, but now in the Lord, you are light. Live as children of light – for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true”.
And for me, this is what Epiphany is really about, that each of us can be light bearers for God. To bring the light of Christ, that has shone in our hearts, to wherever there is darkness. To allow even one person to see, perhaps for the first time, to see the light. To know the light. To be the light.
To conclude, I want to read to you a very short poem by Mary Oliver. It is entitled “Instructions for living a life.” She writes only three lines;
Tell about it.
My prayer for us today is that we will all be the light of Christ to a seeker this year. That whenever a seeker comes upon your path, you will be the light of Christ to him or her. That by God’s grace, an epiphany, the manifestation of the light of Christ, will shine through you. And the Lord will be born in them.
Let us continue together on the path that Jesus himself is laying out for us in this new year of our Lord 2022.
Thanks be to God.