by the Rev. Dr. John Fairless
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Epiphany is, of course, all about the light.
We have just celebrated Christmas with candles and twinkling bulbs and stars shining through the night. The longest night of the year has begun giving way to more daylight each day. "Bleak mid-winter" may not quite be done yet, but we have hints all around that the world will not be cold and dark forever.
Isaiah's admonition to "lift up your eyes and look" around is a call to see with spiritual eyes just how much God really is doing, even in the midst of a world that still lives primarily in the dark. A little light goes a very long way on a dark night; on this day, our prayers are for God's light to shine on us and through us.
The world could use some of that " little light of mine!" (An uncredited, but stirring, track of the familiar song here on Youtube.)
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
Wow, oh wow...a great reminder of just "why" the child of light has come into the world here in vv.4 and 12: "May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.... For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper."
Not popular preaching these days, especially in the good old US of A. But, as those called to bear the light of God for the world, do we really have an excuse for not acting as our Lord did?
I am not responsible for Mr. Obama or Mr. Boehner or their colleagues or their choices -- I am responsible for what I do with the "light" and the blessing of the gospel.
The apostle reminds us that, as well as we know the story and as often as we have been down this trail, preaching these texts -- the working of God in the hearts and lives of God's people is still a considerable mystery. (Note that Paul uses that word four times in these five sentences.)
Take a little time to dwell on the mystery -- after all these years of studying and preaching the gospel, what is it that still mystifies you? What stirs a bit of wonder in your own heart? What puzzles you as you think about it? What is it that you do not yet know about God?
Two fairly strongly contrasting emotions that dwell together in this text. Herod is "frightened" by the news of the Magi who come in search of a king. By all accounts, he was a fairly nervous fellow when it came to threats to his sovereignty. He "axed" several of his own family members when he thought they might be after his seat of power. He later orders the "Slaughter of the Inocents" in order to root out what was, in his mind, a pretender to his throne.
Okay, so much for fear; now we know why not only Herod, but "all Jerusalem with him," were frightened.
The "wise men" from the East, despite Herod's best efforts, do find their way to the child, Jesus, and discover great joy. Overwhelming joy, in fact. (That's another interesting sensation to think about -- when are the times you can remember being so happy that you were nearly overcome with the emotion of it?)
These guys aren't Jewish...and they probably don't fit anyone's definition of a Christian, either, at least not at this point in the story. But their response is instructive. They came a very long way to find this child, and when they met him -- they knelt and they offered him gifts.
Like the bumper sticker I remember placing on our old family station wagon (in my youthful evangelistic desire) -- "Wise Men Still Seek Him!"
by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton