Here are my thoughts for Epiphany Sunday, 3 January 2010. The Scriptures for today are Isaiah 60: 1 – 6, Ephesians 3: 1 – 12, and Matthew 2: 1 – 12.
This is an interesting Sunday as far as the lectionary goes. We have gone from Christ’s birth on Christmas Eve to his journey to the temple when He was twelve and now have gone back to the time when the Magi arrive with their gifts. Following the lectionary can at times be confusing but what fun would we have if it was straight forward and simple?
In that vein, I took the title for this message from an old 60s song, “I See The Light” by the Five Americans but I will tell you that I will use the the old Gospel song, “I saw the light” at the end of this message.
The word “epiphany” has two meanings in my life. The first, of course, is today when, by tradition, the wise men came to visit Jesus. The second meaning has a more scientific meaning, as when someone suddenly understands the meaning behind an event or a discovery. It is, if you will, what has been termed “the AHA moment”.
It is a moment that we all have experienced at some point in our lives, a moment when a difficult problem suddenly becomes very clear and we wonder why we didn’t understand it before. But to get to that point, we have to be involved with the study of the problem and the mechanics of solving it. And that is where we, as a society, are quickly failing.
We don’t want to do the work that will enable us to solve problems. We apply the same old answers to new solutions. The answers to the economic crisis over the past several years have been expressed in terms of supporting the systems that caused the crisis in the first place rather than helping those were suffering. The answer to the problems of healthcare in this country was seen in only a continuation of the same system instead of insuring that people had real healthcare. The answers to the problems of terrorism only seek to increase the terrorism, not end it. If the links to the aborted Christmas Day bombing on the Northwest flight are to be found in Yemen, attacking Yemen will not stop future terrorism.
The problem is that we are not willing to go that extra step that is needed; we are not willing to push the boundaries necessary to learn something new. The wise men were men of learning and they spent their time learning about the world around them. Something happened to disturb the world that they were observing; but instead of simply making note of the event, they investigated it. And that required they leave the “laboratory” and venture westward to where the star pointed them.
But we are too often like King Herod, reluctant to accept new ideas or information, choosing instead to hold to the one ways and the old ideas. While our reactions may not be as violent as Herod’s, our reluctance to accept new ideas is about the same. Why is it that we think that rebuilding the banks that trashed the economic system will make things better? Why do we think the only kinds of jobs that we can create are traditional jobs rebuilding the infrastructure? Why is it that healthcare is predicated on one’s economic status? Why, when we know the causes of terrorism, do we insist on doing things that only feed terrorism?
Maybe we need to encounter Christ as Paul did on the road to Damascus. Maybe, instead of seeing things through our old eyes, we need to be blinded by the light as Paul was. And when our eyes open again, maybe we will see the world through different eyes, in a different light.
As Isaiah told the people, perhaps we should look up and look around! And if we do, then we shall see a new world, a new world of hope and promise. This new vision, this new light is echoed in the words of Paul. In Christ, we have the new vision, the new light.
As Paul pointed out to the Ephesians, the older generations didn’t have that insight. They were locked into a vision that saw the solution in the old ways. But in the vision of Christ we can see new solutions.
When the wise men came to Christ, they were filled with excitement. It was not simply that they had come upon the Christ child but that their visions had given them insight into a new world. And we know that their lives changed because they took a different way home. They understood the meaning of the message of the angels that to return to Herod was to destroy all that they had done.
We cannot but wonder if they didn’t take the message of Christ’s birth to the people where they lived. But instead of wondering, we should follow their example.
We have the vision; we have seen the light. And we know what the light brings. No longer are we limited by the old ways, Perhaps as this new year begins, we can see new solutions that focus on all the people, not just those who already have and want more. Each year we pray for peace in this world and perhaps this year we can find that peace through the Gospel message, to feed the hungry and heal the sick, to free the oppressed and bring hope to the forgotten people of the planet. Because to do otherwise will turn the clock back, not forward.
We have the opportunity, let us rejoice.