The Day the Light Went On
| Matthew 2:1-12
|Sun, January 4, 1998
Rev. Ed Searcy
|Tuesday is Epiphany. Next to Easter it is our oldest festival. Older even than Christmas. But long since overshadowed. Too bad, really. Epiphany. Translated literally it means 'to show forth'. But the dictionary describes an epiphany this way: "a sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something, often by means of a sudden intuitive realization". An epiphany is a moment of sudden clarity. It is that moment when you suddenly know the answer to a problem that has long confounded you. It is that day when you realize that you have fallen in love. It's as if the light finally goes on and you are no longer in the dark. All of a sudden a whole new way of seeing dawns on you. The language of epiphany is the language of light. Cartoonists know this. That is why they portray inner epiphanies with light bulbs. Readers everywhere know this shorthand for an 'aha', for an epiphany.
Today, two days shy of Epiphany, the day after the Twelfth day of Christmas, we sit waiting for the light to go on. Oh, we have celebrated the birth of the Christ child in fine form: carols and candles, lights and trees, gifting and feasting are all done. Now it is back to the books and to the grindstone. Time to pack up the creche for another year. As we do, we can't help but wonder if that is all there is.
You would think that we'd have it figured out by now. Yet the mystery still evades us, like some barely perceptible reality lurking at the edges of our vision. We long for clarity, for light, for epiphany. We are like
those mysterious foreigners from the east who glimpse a sign in the heavens, who read the alignment of the stars and have an epiphany ... "a sudden intuitive realization". What else have we to say to those who wonder what we are doing here when we could be somewhere else? Something about this baby cradled in straw draws us to him ... leads us to offer him gifts ... brings us on a life time pilgrimage to pay him homage.
It falls to Paul the apostle of the epiphany to put words to the mystery that draws us in and sends us out. You remember Paul? Not invited to the nativity. Not one of the Twelve. Not even a follower of Jesus. Instead, Paul tries to snuff out the Christian movement. Until, one day, he has an epiphany ... "a sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something" ... namely, of Jesus Christ. It is the day that the light goes on. It is the day that Paul's eyes open to a new reality. Listen to Rabbi Saul, now Paul say 'aha': "the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel" (Ephesians 3:6). The outsiders, the non-believers, the foreigners, have been given a share of the inheritance, have become blood brothers and sisters, members of the family, shareholders in the promises of God.
Do you see? Has the light gone on? Is it dawning on you yet? In Jesus Christ God is searching you out, bringing you home, treating you as family. There is a place for you at the Table. You belong here. You count. And so does the person beside you, behind you, in front of you. Even the stranger. Especially the stranger, the ignored, the cast out, the forgotten one.
Here, in the Chapel of the Epiphany, the light goes on Sunday after Sunday. It dawns on us again and again that the hospitality of God, revealed in Jesus Christ, is a gift to be received no matter how unworthy we deem ourselves.
Which means, of course, that the hospitality of God, revealed in Jesus Christ, is also a gift to be given no matter how unworthy we deem another. 'Aha'.