January 6, 2008
Isaiah 60:1-6 Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
Ephesians 3:1-12 St. Matthew 2:1-12
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. Epiphany means a revealing or a making of something known and the Epiphany in the Church Calendar refers to the revealing of Jesus to the gentiles represented by the wise men, who, to be historically actually, arrived a few years after the birth of Jesus. Most of us think an epiphany experience has to be like a light bulb going off in our heads. But an epiphany can be more or less than that. And as we will discover, an epiphany can sometimes be a negative experience or have negative consequences.
Epiphanies can happen all the time. They happen when a scientist discovers something new. They happen when we discover something new about ourselves or the world around us. Sometimes they happen when something we have long known about starts to suddenly make sense to us in a new or more powerful way.
There can also be different kinds of results from epiphanies. There are a number of epiphanies we can look at in the Christmas story.
The first to look at is the epiphany of Mary. Mary’s epiphany resulted in obedience. It must have been a hard thing for her to discover that she was pregnant. Aside from knowing that it was, as far as she knew, a physically impossible event at that moment in her life, I’m sure the realistic concerns about how Joseph, her family, and her community would react was never far from her mind. As a result of this unplanned pregnancy she would be an outcast and even worse her very life was at risk. And yet in spite of all these concerns which must have been running through her mind, Mary was able to respond in obedience to the call of God in her life. We may likewise face great challenges from God. Sometimes challenges may seem overwhelming and impossible to us at the time. But we can learn from the example of Mary to still respond with grace, faith, and obedience, no matter how great the obstacle.
The next epiphany in this series was the epiphany of Joseph. Actually Joseph had two epiphanies. The first was an epiphany of betrayal when he discovered Mary’s condition. But Joseph displayed what I can only view as amazing grace in the midst of the epiphany of betrayal. It seemed that Mary had betrayed him and make him look foolish. But rather than trying to extract the maximum amount of revenge and retribution, Joseph was of a mind to handle things quietly. We should remember this lesson the next time ideas of evening the score enter into our thoughts or desires. Joseph’s second epiphany was when the angel appeared to him. That epiphany had to be as hard to handle as the first. To hear those impossible words that the child Mary was bearing was a child from God. Joseph’s second epiphany resulted in a change of attitude and action. Joseph willingly accepted his place in God’s plan for the Incarnation. How willing are we to submit to God’s plan for our lives when those plans are untidy, or uncomfortable, or embarrassing, or downright humiliating.
The next epiphany in this story is one that has tragic consequences. It is the epiphany of Herod. Herod’s epiphany resulted in fear. Herod wanted no news of a King of the Jews. This was competition. This was bad news. His position was precarious enough without another pretender to the throne. Epiphany’s can also result in our response of fear. While it highly unlikely that fear would drive us to the excesses of Herod, we need to remember that fear can often accompany change or the unknown in our own lives.
Fear can accompany many kinds of epiphanies. Mary I’m sure felt a whole lot of fear in her epiphany. Put yourself in her position for a moment. You are a young girl who has never had sex and you find yourself pregnant. Now that can inspire a lot of fear. It is not feeling fear at something that God has called you to do that is wrong, what can be wrong is how you respond.
The wise men’s epiphany resulted in a pilgrimage and their paying homage to Jesus.
So we have seen the result of epiphanies in all these people. Obedience, betrayal, change of attitude, action, fear, pilgrimage, homage. These are just a few of the many possible reactions of epiphanies.
Epiphanies can involve the threat of change. They call us to look in new ways at old things and to look at new things for a first time. They can challenge our faith. They can help us to grow spiritually.
Pray for a year of epiphanies in your life and at St. Peter’s. We will be enriched and grow in ways we might never have imagined if we open ourselves up to the power of God in our lives to change and form us.