Epiphany is being able to step back and see how all the puzzle pieces that have already been put into place form the picture–and realize what the picture makes. It doesn’t change the picture, it just allows you to understand the picture better!
That’s why, when big changes happen, a good thing to do is to go back to the things you know for sure: identity, facts, spiritual disciplines.
And of course, in the story of the Magi, the answer is Jesus! Same for John the Baptist and the Shepherds! And each of them figured it out by doing what they do best–studying the stars, baptizing and preaching, tending the sheep, etc. For the Magi, its a good news picture, for Herod, not so much. But when they look at the pieces of the puzzle and they go back and look at it, they realize, the answer is Jesus!
As we enter this year after 20 months of Monumental changes–people moving, changing jobs, retiring and dying. And all of these changes are happening on a huge global level, we can be pretty sure that humanity is ripe for an Epiphany, we are about to discover some things about ourselves.
So, now is a good time to hone in on the basics–who are we? what do we love? what are our spiritual practices?
So when we are finally able to step back and see how the puzzle pieces fit together, we are well grounded for that moment of epiphany.
All right, let’s go 2022. Let’s get ready for our Epiphany.
I wonder how the Magi felt, leaving a small baby full of beauty and hope behind to journey home.
Did they let themselves hope? How terrified were they, God, when the angel appeared to them in a dream and “warned them to go home a different way.”
Is this what Epiphany feels like God? Understanding yet standing up to the real evil that exists in the world? Did the Magi feel a weird mixture of hoping for hope, but not being able to spend time on that yet?
Is Epiphany knowing what you don’t know? Is it finding small joys in babies and families and journeys successfully completed even as Petty Rulers do every single despicable thing to keep their power not caring what innocents will suffer or die along the way?
This is some epiphany, God. Where the vaccine is found, but the virus has not yet been defeated. The Good News is real, but hasn’t been disseminated yet. Where the fullness of already but not yet of salvation and health and peace and change is imminent, but completely out of reach.
What did the Magi pray when they looked upon the star? Did they pray for wisdom? for guidance? for safety? for family and friends who were far away? For the furture that had yet to impend?
Because that’s what I’m praying for this epiphany.
Lord, keep us wondering and wandering in the right direction I pray.
Its one of those rare Sundays when Narrative Lectionary and RCL mirror one another, and we all pause to celebrate Epiphany. Epiphany is a funny concept. We think of it as a sudden burst of inspiration, but experience is that it is more gradual, like the journey of the magi. Whether the magi come a few days after the birth of Jesus or when he was a toddler or preschooler, the magi are unique because they come after the fact. This gives me comfort, that perhaps its not too late to have an epiphany. Perhaps the window for learning and brilliant inspiration is not so tight as we would make it out to be.
This would make sense to me because humans need time to adjust. Maybe this is why Jesus grows into adulthood like an other human being. We need time to adjust–Mary and Joseph lost Jesus for 3 days and sort of forgot he was God during that time so there’s another story where adjustment is made manifest. We need time to get used to Jesus, we need time to get to know him. As Christians sometimes the question is asked, when did you first know Jesus? A seemingly innocuous query, I’m not sure that there is a clear answer. Maybe you can point to when your sense of Jesus started to develop but our relationship with God is ongoing and grows and changes with our sense of self.
I often think of how my sense of self grows and changes with time. How the moment of “Happy New Year” is just the beginning. Because even though I theoretically know its 2019, It will be weeks before I start putting the correct date on checks and papers. It will be month before the year gains some kind of shape and meaning and the realization that it actually is a new year will strike me again, and again until it becomes habit.
Knowing Jesus is like this for me, which is why I need the practice, even though I have had 30+ years of practicing the birth of Jesus Christ, its a slow, life-long realization that Christ was born on earth its a struggle to remember that Jesus was fully human like me and that God is somehow enfleshed deity at the same time that he is human.
Its a journey. Like your career and your relationships. You might be a mother, daughter, wife but what that means grows and changes as a result. I wonder how the magi were changed after their journey. Did they become a family that reunion-ed with one another every year? Did they get so sick and tired of each other that they seldom met after that? Did they become the local storytellers, each telling a different and unique journey under the star to see Jesus?
Funny how the Magi all went on the same journey, but probably learned different things. Funny how there are four different gospels in the Bible and each choose to focus on a different part of the nativity story. Funny that Matthew even knew about the Magi. Was he there? Did he sit in Mary’s kitchen and hear the story? Was it common knowledge in Bethlehem and Nazareth that these strangers made this journey?
Where do you find the epiphany in the text this week?
Let us know where you are finding God and Epiphany during this Holy Christmas Season.
Instead of doing the Kings at the end of Epiphany, we are joining them at the beginning of their journey this year.
I’m going with the idea that the wise men saw the star and actually made it to Bethlehem when Jesus was a baby (there is an idea floating 0ut there that the “three kings” came later, when Jesus was a toddler).
This is an interesting story to be included in the narrative. We are given even less specifics than usual.
Some Magi, more than one, maybe men, maybe women, saw a star and traveled to find a baby in the manger. If they really began their journey in time to see Jesus as a baby, then they were the first ones to hear about Jesus (besides Mary and Joseph and Elizabeth)…weren’t Jewish, they weren’t even local. They were probably African.
The message then, is clear that Jesus has come for all people, for the different ones.
And I, for one, am amazed that this story made it to the birth narrative, because its about some strangers. However, those who were finally getting around to writing it down they included this.
It reminds me of the cupcake story From Jan Edminston (see her blog here https://achurchforstarvingartists.wordpress.com/!). She said one day her church handed out cupcakes, just to share some joy. They weren’t advertising, and if asked they said we are from the church over there and waved vaguely down the way.
It had an impact, because years later, people still remember when that church handed out cupcakes?
Who are your magi? What are your cupcakes.
New Covenant did a flash survey (one day, just whoever was there) and we filled out how we serve God in the community (please write down things that are not directly connected to the church) through prayer, goods, money, talent and time. Keep in mind that attendance maxes out at about 40 adults, and this was not a full Sunday
We support 40 different community charitable organizations through goods and money (and some organizations had multiple donors on top of that!)
We give time and talent to 20 separate community needs!
Prayer is utilized in 17 discrete situations.
These are our cupcakes, these are our magi. This teeny tiny church is nourished and supported and so we go out and make a HUGE difference.
And it doesn’t matter which church over there is the center for all this, but that we have been and will continue to be lead by God to extend love and BUILD THE COMMUNITY!
We can define the stars…but the experience of these burning masses of gas, is beyond a description.
We can define God as this fully human, fully divine, who was born in a manger, and died to save us all…
but the experience of God is more than that…that is why we gather together each week…each Sunday we come together to share where we see God working in our lives!
And to try not to be-little it…not to make it small…but to magnify it. To proclaim it, to call attention to the good news of God in our lives, one who is present and active.
“I will have nothing to do with a God who cares only occasionally. I need a God who is with us always, everywhere, in the deepest depths as well as the highest heights. It is when things go wrong, when good things do not happen, when our prayers seem to have been lost, that God is most present. We do not need the sheltering wings when things go smoothly. We are closest to God in the darkness, stumbling along blindly.” Madeline L’engle
Bad things happen, and we are not told to ignore them(heck 2/3rds of the Psalms are people crying out to/yelling at God), but what we are meant to realize, and share, and embrace, is God’s work in & through us.
People asking about a clothing exchange that closed over a year ago is evidence of God’s power.
The church making budget every year for 3yrs even though not everyone gives what they thought they would is pure miracle.
Having a ceiling and roof repair in one year, and having an estate come through the works for a quarter of the cost…..that has been in probate for 30 years…is God at work
Every person who has heard God’s voice, every one who feels God’s work, every one who comes through the farmer’s market or the playgroup, the fact that we are getting more calls for help in a month than what we used to get in a year.
These are all God-experiences…..
They are amazing…
and its is this reason we journey together…we see God’s star in the East, we may get lost, we may need to ask for directions, we may have to go back a different way…but we are doing it because we are experiencing God.