Tuesday, January 10, 2017
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. Isaiah 60:1(NLT)
In all my growing-up years we attended a church that paid almost zero attention to the movement of the church year. Ordinary time, Pentecost, and the Feast of this saint or that were lost to me. So, for me, epiphany held only the everyday meaning of an idea that dawned.
These days Epiphany is more than the arrival of an idea, it is the celebration of the true light of hope, born in a manger to die for our sins, the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in particular, the visiting Magi bringing their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the child born a king.
A question I pondered a week ago on Epiphany Sunday was: What kind of gift can you bring to light? It’s a good question, and it reminds me of some of the very imperfect gifts I’ve given over the years. As a child I gave my Mom a bottle of ink on Christmas. She was always writing something, and it seemed appropriate to a 7 year old with a limited budget.
For our second anniversary I gave my new bride an electric can-opener. (Whew…took a long time to live that one down!) Best efforts – that was my default excuse for an unimaginative, unworthy gift. But giving a gift sometimes requires a little more than best effort; it requires sacrifice.
So, on the first Sunday of this year, as usual, I sat in worship in my regular seat, first row, piano side on the middle aisle…(and what good Methodist doesn’t always sit in the same seat week after week?) And as I pondered Eiphany, I had an epiphany. Looking up towards the Lord’s Supper table, I noticed the flame of the candle was perfectly reflected in the lower center of the cross.
That light awakend my heart anew to the truth that, in Epiphany, the appearing of a king born in a cattle feeder, the light of the world illuminated the horrible darkness in which humans live. It is the darkness of terrorism, greed, grasping, and anger. It is the darkness that one generation passes on to the next…and calls it light.
And when God did something about it – He sent us light for our darkness – we hung it on a tree at Golgotha.
My epiphany was a vision of the gift-light of God hanging on a cross. And there’s something so wrong about that, it cries out from the pit of my soul to do something…and I cannot. How can you tell the light to get off the cross? You could try to stop seeing the light, turn it off, snuff out the candle; but can you do that to the holy light? No! You can’t turn off a wildfire, or the erruption of nuclear fission; how could you hope to do that to the Source of light? And Epiphany is my reminder that you can never overcome the light of God’s gift with all the darkness the world possesses.
So what gift can I bring as a 21st century magi? The only gift I can ever bring that is an appropriate, worship-worthy gift is the same kind God gave…a life!
The only life I have to give is…mine! And, despite all our wishes to buy Him off with our giving of gold, frankincense and bottles of ink, my life – no more, no less - is all He requires.
Today would be a good day to remember that whenever light shines, darkness disappears. Pick up your candle…go light your world.