May these words and thoughts that I share as a Deacon of your church be true to your word Gracious Lord.
This homily begins with an apology to the writer of the Gospel of Matthew, I have changed the reference to the wise men to the word Magi.
An oft-used word in reference to the Epiphany is manifest as in the revealing of a divine being.
It is this that we celebrate today as we hear of the visitation of the magi.
This is that moment in time when the revelation of God in Jesus would be for more than the people living in that area around Bethlehem.
This manifestation would be for all of humanity, not just for a chosen few.
There is another meaning for the word ‘epiphany’
That is about, as we say in the Education for Ministry course, the “ah-ha moment” of insight.
The moment when we say … ’this is what it is all about, this is what it means….”
If this were a comic strip I envision the main character with a light bulb turning on
above its head.
As I sat at home on Christmas Eve, along with many others unable to attend services due to the weather, I reflected on what was important to me at Christmas.
I had done all the needed preparations to make our Christmas what it always had been.
The presents were bought, the little items for the stockings, which had become part of our traditions were waiting to fill the stockings.
The favorite foods for our brunch and festive dinner was sitting in the fridge.
But alas, the snow was coming down, and a phone call was received saying that my brother would not be able to join us on Christmas Day.
Our daughter and son-in-law were without power but at least their frozen pipes
had finally thawed.
Emails to our out of town friends told that we would not be seeing them on Boxing Day because of dangerous driving conditions.
So, as I set up the manager scene, which I have had since I was a child, I was slowly slumping into the feeling that questioned what this was all about.
Something was missing for me.
My epiphany, my ah-ha moment was when I came to realize that it was missing the celebration in community that was the most difficult for me.
I realized how important it was in my life to celebrate the joy of the Incarnation with music and people that touched my soul in a way that all the trimmings of Christmas never would.
It is in the moment of paying homage to God for the miracle of the birth of the Son
that puts the Christmas season into perspective for me. This gives me reason to celebrate and participate in the traditions of our family with joy.
Also, it is in the community that my faith is deepened and strengthened
and I am empowered to bear witness to the meaning of God Incarnate in my life.
This deeper understanding began with the scripture readings over the Advent season, concluding in the Christmas season.
We first hear in Mark to keep alert, to keep awake and to be on watch.
Mark writes “For we do not know when the master will come.”
So, we wait to hear of God breaking into the flesh of humanity at a time unknown.
We hear the story of John the Baptist as the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ for John proclaims “Prepare the way of the Lord. ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me, he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
So, we prepare the way for God to break into the flesh of humanity.
And John’s story continues as written in the Gospel of John, John the Baptist is the one sent from God to testify to the light of the One to come.
So, we watch for the light of God breaking into the flesh of humanity so that all might believe
We hear of the visitation of Mary by the angel Gabriel, that great moment in time
when by a simple Yes the world changed forever.
God is to become Incarnate in the flesh of humanity, as Mary responds
“Here am I, the servant of the Lord”
In the great story of Christmas, we hear of the birth of Jesus, that deep, intense moment of God breaking into the flesh of humanity, God Incarnate.
Then, we become aware of a shift in the stories. They are no longer about individuals bearing news but of the Good News being given to communities.
For the first time the news is shared with others outside of the world of Mary and Joseph. God forms a new relationship with all people as the news is told to the shepherds.
This first community to hear the news of the birth of the Messiah was a simple group of workers, the shepherds, people not unlike you or me.
They were not chosen to hear the words of the angels because they had greater connections that would enable them to share the good news, I believe they were chosen because they were ‘just ordinary folk’
This impacts us today ….. as we, the ordinary folk, are to bear witness to the message of the angels that night that God forms a new relationship with all people,
People just like you and me.
Hard working people, struggling to make sense of a world in turmoil, keeping our heads above water in tough economic times, keeping food on our table and still sharing the yields of our flock and harvest with others.
Today, we hear about the magi, the gospel tells of this community of three that saw a simple star as something more than a light in the night sky, something that drew them to a special place.
That place where they witnessed God Incarnate. Their eyes were open to see something beyond the obvious.
These people were not your ordinary folk they were representatives of power
and were looked upon for answers in their communities.
Yet, they were led to a simple place to worship a simple child in humility.
We too are to remember as we witness to God Incarnate that we do so in humility.
The humble message of God Incarnate is not about ourselves
but of God’s love for all.
We are not to keep this message to ourselves.
For each of us, this manifestation continues. This wonderful news of the birth of Jesus Christ is what we are to carry with us out into the world.
For me the message of this gospel is about our living a life with open eyes to see the star laid before us that reveals the majesty of God.
It is for us to see God who breaks into humanity in a new relationship with us.
I wonder how often that star is seen before us in this community. There is no doubt in my mind that often the presence of the Spirit is felt as we gather in worship and fellowship.
Perhaps this is part of what it means to respond to and see the star set before us as revelation to Jesus…..
This is what it means to me to be in community with each of you. Being strengthened and empowered, to keep alert, and awake, to be on watch for the presence of God in our lives.
This is what I was missing on Christmas Eve.
We are called to prepare the way of the Lord, to search and to find how we are to make manifest to the world, God Incarnate.
We are called to testify to the light of the One that has come, to bear witness to the love shown to us by God in our actions of love to others.
Our response should be a simple Yes when we are called to step outside of our comfort zone.
From this community we are called to bear witness to God out to the places where we live and work
I know I am a person that needs community to support and feed me in my faith.
I pray that from here I may be led forth to share my witness of God Incarnate.
I pray that you too will have your epiphany, that ‘ah-ha’ moment when you come to know where you are supported and fed so that you may enter into a deeper knowledge of God Incarnate.
I pray that this Epiphany will lead us into life with a deeper love for all humanity that challenges us to bear witness to God who has broken into humanity in a new relationship.
Let’s not keep this message to ourselves, Let us move out and make manifest the message of God Incarnate in human form. AMEN