In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” …….When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
This year at Wesley, we did something different on the first Sunday of the year. Rather than abandon Christmas too quickly for the annual Wesley Covenant Service (which it seems has been done in every Methodist Church I’ve served for 20 years), I decided to dwell in the light of Christmas a little longer. We actually celebrated Epiphany. It was refreshing in that I didn’t have the feeling we were moving on too quickly from Advent and Christmas. After all, the Christian calendar is supposed to flow into Epiphany. Epiphany matters and is an integral part of the unfolding of Christmas. Epiphany is the time of looking out into the future, beyond the borders into the expanse of where life is truly lived.
A few of the early church fathers actually saw Christmas and Epiphany as the first and second nativity. The first nativity (Christmas) is all about the presence of Christ in the world. The second nativity (Epiphany) is all about the manifestation of Christ to the world.
And this is really powerful stuff if you think about it. Advent is the season of asking ourselves the question, “Are we ready for the coming of Christ?” Christmas is the celebration of the presence of Christ. And, Epiphany is the reflection on how Christ will be “revealed” and “made known” through us. Preparation – Arrival – Sending Forth: It’s a great missional prescription.
Epiphany’s challenge is: How will we reveal Christ in our lives now that Christ has come? A recent tweet from PastorEmJ stated, “The Gospel of the Kingdom of God differs radically from the Gospel of Go To Heaven When I Die”. The prayer of Epiphany is that our faith will be real, authentic, and present. Epiphany faith is not rooted in the past or solely focused on the far off future. Epiphany faith is all about revealing Christ – every day, every moment, in every way – in the present.
This closing prayer came from Rev. Teresa Edwards from a home devotional she has: “God of all time and space, with Christmas joy we praise you for the year gone by and for the year we have begun. May this home we have made be filled with kindness to one another with hospitality to guests and with abundant care for every stranger. By the gentle light of a star guide home all who seek you on paths of wonder, peace and charity. Fill the year with good gifts for all the world as we join with the angels in proclaiming your praise: Glory in heaven and peace on earth, now and for ever. Amen”
Now, let’s all go forth and shine the light!