given on Sunday, January 6, 2013
Today is Epiphany, according to the Christian calendars, and we have all resumed our typical daily routines after the holiday celebrations. These routines are almost a relief after such craziness as the holidays often create. And yet today is Epiphany. Why?
Traditionally, in our American lives, we know that Epiphany is the 12th day after Christmas and that by now schools have resumed. We know that typically this is the very last Sunday we talk about the Christmas story until Advent returns 11 months from now. And, in a sad manner, we have nothing to celebrate for quite a while.
Yet, today is Epiphany. If it is on the calendar, then we should understand the significance—shouldn’t we? The four scriptures assigned to this particular day remain the very same for all three years of the common lectionary. That emphasis should provide a key to this day’s importance:
- Isaiah 60:1-6—the prophecy of the coming ‘light’
- Psalms 72:1-14—the prayer for a king with a list of qualities
- Ephesians 3:1-12—Paul’s explanation of his personal transformation aka as an epiphany
- Matthew 2:1-12—the story of the Three Wise Men
Probably the Psalms selection is the least familiar as I do not think it is used that frequently in telling the Christmas story, but it is significant if you look at the qualities outlined in those verses: (read excerpts only)
1-8 Give the gift of wise rule to the king, O God,
the gift of just rule to the crown prince.
May he judge your people rightly,
be honorable to your meek and lowly.
Let the mountains give exuberant witness;
shape the hills with the contours of right living.
Please stand up for the poor,
help the children of the needy,
come down hard on the cruel tyrants.
Outlast the sun, outlive the moon—
age after age after age.
Be rainfall on cut grass,
earth-refreshing rain showers.
Let righteousness burst into blossom
and peace abound until the moon fades to nothing.
Rule from sea to sea,
from the River to the Rim.
9-14 Foes will fall on their knees before God,
his enemies lick the dust.
Kings remote and legendary will pay homage,
kings rich and resplendent will turn over their wealth.
All kings will fall down and worship,
and godless nations sign up to serve him,
Because he rescues the poor at the first sign of need,
the destitute who have run out of luck.
He opens a place in his heart for the down-and-out,
he restores the wretched of the earth.
He frees them from tyranny and torture—
when they bleed, he bleeds;
when they die, he dies.
The list of traits or styles of leadership is ideal. Living in a society that exemplifies these principles is living in a human utopia. Isn’t that what God established for us! Then we made a mess of it.
Isaiah’s excerpt shows us that human nature had taken over and there was a need for change. The prophecy spoken in those verses emphasizes the need for a Messiah. The world was failing to follow God. Yet despite all the priests praying and creating all kinds of laws, the people were not staying focused on God. Something needed to be done, there needed to be an epiphany if people were to be saved.
Continuing with the scriptures assigned for Epiphany Sunday, look at the verses from Matthew. These verses are very familiar to us. We include them every year in the readings for Advent and the Sunday after Christmas. Here in Matthew is arrival of the New King and the revelation of the star that the three kings discovered.
Where does that leave us today? Over 2,000 years after the Christ child was born, we are once again facing a world filled with evil. We need leaders who value humanity regardless of race, creed or wealth. We need an epiphany!
Why do we need an epiphany? Look back to the origin of the word. Using the term for a more common use, epiphany is defined as “a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.” Delving deeper into the origin of the word, according to Dictionary.com, the word first was used in Middle English when the Greek word epiphaneia was translated from the Late Latin term epiphania basically meaning an apparition or something that appeared.
What is an epiphany for us today? The term is used to mean an awakening to a truth, an ah-ha moment when we finally get a concept or an understanding of a difficult idea. The ‘ah-ha’ moment may be the best explanation because we experience those at various times in our lives concerning all types of learning. It might be the moment we realize a baby’s cry means I am hungry or when trying to learn a new math skill or when we read an instruction manual and finally get it.
Today, January 6, may be a Christian holiday celebrating that Christ is the Messiah, that Christ is God himself walking side by side with us right here on the earth’s surface. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians describes his personal epiphany. Our study and understanding of Paul’s experience is built around his walk to Emmaus when he was struck down with blindness. God had to cause a physical disability to show Paul that Jesus was the Messiah. Paul’s epiphany truly was an ‘ah-ha’ moment in which he honestly saw the light that came with understanding.
We each need a personal epiphany. Right now in our culture we are constantly being challenged to maintain our focus on God. We confront the secular world filled with enticing things and we become blind to God. God loves us. God gives us everything we need. With God at the center of our lives, we discover blessings all around us. We need an epiphany.
As we begin another calendar year, do not be discouraged. The news that feeds to you through the screen in your home is not the reality of God’s world; it is the reality of the human world—created by humans. Identify God in your world, use God as the filter for your viewing, and know that God is in control—as long as we allow him to be in control.
When God’s reality is acknowledged, the epiphany happens. Prayerfully, following the tradition of celebrating the holiday Epiphany we can see our own truth, identify our personal epiphany, and even share our ‘ah-ha’ moments with others so they too may know the reality of God in their lives. The ‘ah-ha’ experience has the potential to transform each one’s individual lives; and if Christians around follow Paul’s example after his epiphany, the world will transform.
Dear Watchful Father,
On this Epiphany Sunday, let us see Your light.
Show us the way to love one another day after day.
Show us the truth of the scriptures so we reach understanding.
Show us the transformations that accompany true faith.
Give us the strength to share with others as Paul shared his epiphany.
Let our faith be a beacon of Your light to others. –Amen