Sermon Notes: Epiphany 2011, Year A

Update: The text I actually preached was so far removed from what I actually wrote, it can be heard here

Texts: Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12

  • Celebrating the birth of Jesus is an incredible opportunity for all Christians to begin again
    • be born again
    • to a life of transformation, first of ourselves and then as instruments of transformation in the world.
  • The Scriptures today mark the feast of the Epiphany
  • This means “to reveal”
  • We can have an “epiphanous moment” as suddenly something is made clear
  • It is Christ who is made clear to us on this feast, as he is shown to the wider world, beyond the Jews, as he is shown to the Magi.
  • Since the early third century, the Eastern church celebrated the feast of the Epiphany honouring the baptism of Jesus.
  • Together, the feasts of Epiphany, Easter, and Pentecost brought together water and light as imagery representing new life.
  • During the fourth century, the Western church disassociated the baptism from the feast of the Epiphany, emphasizing instead the manifestation of the Good News to the Gentiles through the figures of the Magi, at last now in our Crib Scene.
  • It was weeks ago that we experienced the shortest day of the year: the winter solstice;
  • Now more light, more day comes with each new dawn.
  • It is much more difficult to see even the most obvious things in the dark
    • this season invites us to travel toward the light (of the star, the light of Christ) so that we might see what it reveals.
    • It also compels us to bring all our gifts, no matter how humble, to honour Jesus and all that Jesus stands for in our lives and the world.
    • A star both announces and guides the wise men as they travel to be witnesses to the birth of Jesus.
      • They bring to him gifts that represent the best of what they can give
      • This is nothing compared to the great gift Jesus promises to be for the world.
      • They logically seek their “king” first coming through Jerusalem. But as the story tells us, they are met with fear.
      • Their encounter with Herod shows how fear can prevent us from seeing what might bring us closer to God and living out our call to be true followers of Jesus.
  • The prophet Isaiah calls us to “Arise, shine; for your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. … Lift up your eyes and look around.”
  • Indeed we are called to look around us, to be enlightened by what we see, and to offer all our gifts humbly honouring every part of creation.
  • But Isaiah did not stop there. Isaiah demands that we rise up and shine so that God may come in glory.
  • Isaiah also said, “If you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday … you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.”
  • Light is a symbol commonly used in ceremonies and liturgies to signify a light in God’s world.
  • But it can only shine brightly through us and our actions.
  • Light makes things more visible, and our scripture reading demands that we acknowledge the needs of the poor and come out from the dark places that represent complacency and false peace.
  • This prayer is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Most high, glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart and give me, Lord, a right faith, a certain hope, a perfect charity. Give me, Lord, wisdom and discernment, so that I may carry out your true and holy will. Amen.”
  • Rather than allowing fear to dampen our spirit or darken the day, we have an opportunity to see the light that is directing our path toward the promised kingdom, revealed to us when we see the face of Christ in each other.
  • This new season in the church along with the season of the year on God’s earth is an invitation to be a light in the world.
  • As we live into these seasons and recall our baptismal covenant, may we arise and shine to see the glory of God
    • and do what is needed in the service of God.
    • May they know us, as Christians, by our works and by our faith.
  • Amen

With thanks and respect to the Rev. Debbie Royals, on whose sermon this work is shaped.