The Rev. Deacon Judith Jenkins
January 5th, 2014
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany: The story of the Magi who traveled from the East --following a star - a story that involves a journey.
We have heard the word Emmanuel - "God with us" during these last weeks and hopefully we have all taken some time to ponder what that real means for each of us! I grew up in a church with the name Immanuel; and I have to admit that as a young child, learning that those words meant "God With Us," I assumed that our Presbyterian Church really did have an edge on all the other churches because we must, after all, have had first dibs on GOD BEING WITH US!!!!!!
The word Emmanuel and the meaning of Epiphany are part of the same wonder to which we are all celebrating. From the Greek word "epiphaeia", meaning "appearance" or "manifestation" we are talking about the appearance into our world- of Jesus. This time was a foretaste of what would become an extension of Jesus' ministry to the Gentiles. Emmanuel, God with us, is truly an epiphany proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Savior of the whole world and that God's promise of salvation to Israel now applied to all the peoples of the earth.
Much Christian folklore surrounds the Magi. The term East is vague, undefined, but it certainly points us to the entrance of a foreign people into our Bethlehem narrative. Why did these people come? Or when? Whether it was six days after the birth of Jesus or months or even years, the beauty of the story is to ask ourselves: What is revealed to us in this story, and how are we to respond?
I'm impressed that the wise men paid attention -- they noticed that a new era was dawning and they were drawn to the "Light" to the star. It's true when we refer to Epiphany we are usually referring to the Feast which marks the celebration of a star appearing to lead wise men to the Christ Child.
However, that is hardly the only epiphany in the Bible. From the very first book -- from the beginning of our history with God, God has been revealing God's self to us!!!!
To Adam and Eve in the garden
To Abraham and Sarah in the desert
To Moses in the burning bush
To Paul in a blinding flash on the road to Damascus
To all of us in a baby born in a stable!
Our God is a God of Epiphany! a revelation of Emmanuel - God with us!
And so it was that God chose a people to be God's people.
God told Abraham that he was chosen so that his family could be a blessing to all people
Through Isaiah, God told the people that they were chosen to be a light to the nations.
Paul was told he was to carry the light of Christ to the Gentiles
Christ told his disciples that He was the Light sent to the world
And, you and I are meant to be the light to the world as well!!!!
Even if we did not ask, God has been clear about why we have been chosen and to what we are called.
The people of God are to be an epiphany! a revelation of who God is and how God loves this world --This is what is revealed to us in this story!
How are we responding to our calling to be a light? (Think back over this last week – these last few months – the past year of 2013!)
Well, it's not always easy to be the light.
When all is going well for us, do we forget sometimes that we are the light that is to shine in the darkness for others --others who are not sensing the light at this time in their lives?
When we are seated around our tables, comfortable in our homes that are warm and safe, surrounded by those we love and who love us, do we forget those who do not have this security in their lives? I was reminded so much of this as a group of us from St. Michael's and San Gabriel shared Christmas day dinner at AOC, a shelter for men who do not currently have a home.
When events in our church community happen in which, we don't feel comfortable or the circumstances in which we find ourselves are not to our choosing, do we neglect our responsibilities to be the ambassadors of Christ's light?
For the last many months it has not always been easy to be a light within our community at St. Michael's or even in the diocese. Sometimes the darkness comes close and touches the people we care about. Sometimes we are uncertain about the journey ahead of us where things feel unfamiliar -- unknown. That's when we remember the journey that the wise men were willing to take --into the unknown- because they were searching for the meaning of the star – following the light!
This is the meaning of the epiphany -- a revelation, a paying attention to the light! and a willingness to allow the Light to be shown in us.
Rabbi Nahum says that when Moses sees a bush on fire which is NOT consumed, it is not that the bush is burning, but rather that Moses NOTICES! The Wise Men noticed the star and they left home, the most familiar of places, where expectations were understandable -- yet they ventured out toward the unknown, the unfamiliar. This was a not unlike the journey of Sarah and Abraham.
Like any journey we all have discovered some rough spots along the way. Our story tells us that the Wise Men paid attention once more -- and then responded to a warning in a dream to not return to Herod, but to go home a different way. I know that when I take the time to have some space – some reflective time – that I’m more likely to pay attention to things that I might just miss otherwise.
Our Wise Men paid attention -- they noticed and then they responded!
A little over fifty years ago, two children rode in a limousine following the horse drawn caisson carrying a flag draped coffin that carried their father to his place of rest in the National Cemetery. Their mother and their uncle walked outside behind the caisson and the children were alone in the limo with their Nanny. Carolyn, just seven years old had just been told about her beloved father's death.
What happened as the procession moved along is the moment when a secret service man paid attention to what might have seemed an inconsequential detail! This agent, walking in the procession -- closest to the limo carrying the children, took notice of a small hand which was suddenly extended out one of the back windows.
Instinctively, this secret service man reached over and took hold of Carolyn's small hand. He held it tightly in his until they reached their destination. I suppose he could have been reprimanded for that act since that was definitely not part of his job description; but nevertheless, this man noticed and responded; and a little girl whose heart was breaking found some measure of comfort in that long walk to the National Cemetery.
We too are an Epiphany People who are called to notice where God is leading us and to respond. Sometime it may be one of us who reaches out the window and needs someone to squeeze our hand-- or other times we may need to be like the secret service man and reach out to care about someone else! Let’s not let people fall through the cracks in our community!!!
We are to be so close to the heart of Jesus that we can’t help but allow the light of Christ to shine in us and through us!.