thinking theology

And Now I See

In this season of Epiphany, the phrase, “The light has come upon me!” echoes in my soul.

We tell the story of a star blessing a humble place, of scholarly astrologers being led by a star, of a deep understanding beyond words that falls over the earth.

In the stories about Jesus’ birth, we hear how lowly shepherds and the angel choirs of heaven joined in a celestial song, of how the wise and the humble are equally compelled by the light.

As we hear again the story of those astrologers, probably not Jews, who come from afar to relearn the simplicity of life, we may open ourselves to the possibility that the divine is truly everywhere, waiting for revelation, waiting to be seen, waiting to be embraced. In the hymn of praise that begins the gospel of John, we read that the light that is eternal is incarnate from the beginning and cannot be overwhelmed.

Epiphany is a special time for all of us, but priests are particularly privileged at this time: as we share the light of laughter and hope with shut-ins, with little children who pay an often infrequent visit to church, with parents receiving a new baby, with the transfer of light for the dying. In all these ways, we are witnesses to a light that has the power to come upon us with new understanding to renew hope and trust in the essential goodness of life, despite the forecasts of doom.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the light of epiphany is that it is inclusive. It requires no special skills or learning to be witnessed. There are no theological doctrines at work, no creeds, no rules, no boundaries. The light is as cosmic as the stars and as simple as a newborn, as wise as scholars and as humble as shepherds.

In this season, we remember that the good news is not ours to possess but to offer in concrete acts of love and in a determined hope and joy that stands against all the despair, greed and pessimisms that the world can throw at it. We may able to dim the lights of our houses. We may even be able to cover our skies with smog, but beyond all that the stars shine brightly. Our human grasping for power is temporal, limited. The light of the ages, the light of the divine, can be ignored but not destroyed.

Epiphany calls us to resist everything that draws us away from faith in the goodness that lies embedded in life. It reminds us that we are the messengers of another way, a way of compassion and welcome, of generosity and forgiveness, of open hands and open hearts. May the light of Christ rise within the church and may all who share the hope of the light, be greeted as co-workers and allies in making the world more loving. As we share this hope, may we with these others heal the world, heal our people, heal the earth.

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