“It Suddenly Occurred To Me…I’ve Never Had an Epiphany” January 5, 2020
“It Suddenly Occurred to Me… I’ve Never Had an Epiphany”
John 1:1-18 (TLB)
Welcome; welcome one and all. It occurred to me that this particular Sunday is pretty special.
First of all, this Sunday marks the beginning of a new year, a new decade, and it’s hard to ignore all the hope and anticipation that comes from fresh starts and new beginnings. This Sunday is special because the Ducks squeaked out a win at the Rose Bowl, I have a new granddaughter, and I can’t help but feel a sense of urgency for the New Year that is coming upon us: an urgency in our denomination, and urgency in our nation, and an urgency on the world stage.
It’s special, also, because this Sunday marks the end of the Christmas season. The feast of the Epiphany is officially tomorrow on January 6th, the 12th day after Christmas, so for those who are strict traditionalist, you are now permitted to take down the Christmas tree. We generally associate the Epiphany with the coming of the Wise Men – the Magi – to Bethlehem to visit the Christ child. The story that Matthew tells has fascinated us for years. I mean, who were these guys? What inspired them, what motivated them, to travel all that distance? Was it a hunch or a calculated risk? Matthew writes (Mat 2:2) behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Now this doesn’t sound to me like the words of those who are unsure of themselves. No, these wise men were positive- they were convinced – that the Messiah had come, and they weren’t going to miss it for the world. And that’s the power of an epiphany. It’s not a gradual thing. It’s not a revelation that comes after careful consideration. No, an epiphany is “all of a sudden” and when it hits you, it hits you like a ton of bricks. My point is, when it comes to our faith journey – that is usually a good thing.
For the next ten weeks, we will be in the time period known as (wouldn’t you know it) the season of Epiphany. During this time we will be reading from the Gospel of Matthew, the prophesies of Isaiah and Micah, as well as the letters of the Apostle Paul. Nothing unusual there. But I would like your help. In our time of worship together and even in our small groups, I would ask that we really put some thought into the epiphanies in our lives. To be more specific, I would ask that we think back to the moment when we came to realize how cool it is – how incredibly fantastic it is – that our God chose to come to us for real, in the flesh. That is the Christmas story, after all: Emmanuel – God With Us. But there’s an epiphany here and, I swear, every time I read the opening lines of the Gospel of John, it hits me like a ton of bricks all over again. (CEB) “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.” (TLB) “Before anything else even existed, there was Christ, with God. He has always been alive and is God.” As Christians, this is the core truth of our faith. The one thing that we all can agree upon, wouldn’t you say?
And if we take that seriously, it answers the one question that is always in the back of our minds: what is God really like? John’s answer is head slapping in its simplicity: “God and Christ are the same. To know Jesus is to know God.” This was the epiphany of the Magi: somehow they knew that this gift was from God and was of God; it was a light that would drive out the darkness in the world. Somehow they knew – these wise men who treasured knowledge – somehow they knew that through this the child being born they could come to know the true nature of God. And, as Matthew tells us, “They rejoiced with exceeding great joy.”
The Lutheran seminarian David Lose tells about a colleague of his who found himself on an airplane while still wearing his clerical collar, which can make for some interesting conversations. When the flight hit some major turbulence, the person sitting next to him leaned over and said, “Pastor, do you think God is as good as Jesus?” “What do you mean?” the preacher said. “Well, everyone knows that Jesus is nice,” said the passenger, “but God….” So there you have it, and I’m going to leave you with that rather perplexing question in the airplane. In a sense, it is the question than John addresses at the b=very beginning of his Gospel. And so for the next few weeks, I would like to focus less on Jesus the man and more on Jesus the divine. And who know, by the time we get into Lent we may have come up with a few epiphanies of our own.
Amen & Shalom