It seems that one brief moment is so quickly swallowed up by the very darkness it broke through. One glance at the headlines in the past 24-48 hours reveals such truth doesn’t it? Fires in Australia killing ½ billion animals. Talk of revenge from Iran after the death of top official Suleimani. The unofficial word of a denominational split. Continued impeachment arguments. Word of airstrikes in Iraq and the ever increasing incidents of violent hate crimes against targeted minorities.
That is why today matters. That is why epiphany matters. We don’t just walk our way to Bethlehem, poke our head in the stable, “shout congrats, its a boy” only to turn around and leave. There is more to unwrap. Epiphany is an appearing or revealing. It is typically the time the church celebrates the coming of the Magi - the wise ones from the East, and the appearing of the star, and of course the incarnation of Christ - God taking on human form.
It is the time to take it all in. To pause. To wonder. A time to close our eyes and consider what it is we see through the eyes of the baby we celebrated just days ago; through the eyes of God. It is a time to open our eyes to the appearing of the truth of Jesus - of his being the very presence and power of God yet one who came to walk with us, showing us how to live, get along, build community, serve another, take care of things, and how to love.
Have we forgotten already church? Have we lost sight so soon? Did we even wait in Bethlehem long enough to meet the wisemen? Have we heard their story or listened to what their journey and example might teach us?
“Wake up, put your face in the sunlight” - the light of hope continues. Move forward. Bring what you know and allow God to use you. Trust that God is with you, with us and that God continues to break through the darkness of our world, our circumstance, and situations.
“Shine” Like the wise one’s from the east, bring what you know, use what you have been given, be aware, and trust that God will guide you through come what may. Take action but do so in a way that the light of God is present. Be the vessel of compassion and kindness.
“Look around” - see what God is doing. See how the light of advent, the light in the manger, the star of Bethlehem shines and you, the church, are a part of it. In the midst of our darkness, whether personal, communal, national, or international, epiphany is the appearing / revealing / unwrapping of God with us.
Do not avoid the darkness (the truth, the tough conversations, the stranger, that which makes you uncomfortable, the demanding, the controversial, but rather trust the faithfulness of a God whose beauty, goodness and truth is far bigger than anything we fear, question, or doubt; a God whose light cannot be extinguished.
The text today is promise, hope, and celebration in the midst of oppression, exile, and defeat. It is a vision of restoration and healing in the midst of despair, brokenness, and uncertainty.
Dear church, may the light that walked us to Bethlehem, the light born in the stable, lying in a manger, and the light that brought the wise ones from the East, may that light burn bright in the midst of mixed up emotions, conflicting thoughts, searing differences, political tensions, denominational uncertainty, economical rifts, and so much more.
Pastor Jenothy Irvine