Jan. 10, 2021 - "Epiphanies"

Jan. 10, 2021 - "Epiphanies"

January 10, 2021 | Ryan Arnold

Passage: Matthew 2:1-12

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    a reflection on this week, as seen through the lens of Matthew 2:1-12.

    Four days ago, January 6, was a memorable, memorable day. People know well what this day represents. Those passionate about this sort of thing celebrate every time the date comes around. It puts some at ease. For others it creates anxiety. And for most? It is a sign of stability.

    Even more, it represents something we can count on. No matter what.

    The date signifies a time of transition, to be sure. A transition from one kind of leader, to another. It is a look back, at a major moment in the not-too-distant past. It is a certification, that the major moment matters. It is, ultimately, a look ahead. To a time in the not-too-distant future. A time marked by –

    Hope for brighter tomorrows.

    The date, January 6, doesn’t matter just for Americans. The whole world watches. Amazed at the spectacle of it all.

    The meaning behind this date is nothing new. It’s quite old; centuries even. Institutions called to oversee the date observe it with great care.

    Following what this date represents, consistently, is why the meaning remains.

    Heck if you Google it – just type in January 6 – the top search result will tell you exactly what is so very important about this date.

    We’re talking, of course, about the Celebration of Epiphany.

    Was your mind elsewhere?

    An epiphany is a –

    Turning point,
    Watershed moment.

    The word originates from ancient Greek, epiphanea.
    The concept has been around seemingly forever.

    An epiphany is a –

    Sudden, striking revelation.

    An epiphany is a –

    Feeling, bubbling up from within.
    Rarity, not occurring every day.
    Synthesis, of information, put together in new ways.

    When epiphanies happen, and are understood and applied, they shape the future for –


    When epiphanies happen there is no returning to the way things were before. That simply can’t be. There is no putting the epiphany genie back in the bottle. What has been revealed in that moment, of epiphany, can never be undone.

    When Archimedes took a bath one day, two centuries before Christ, he noticed the water level rose as he got in. He realized this approach, of placing an object in water, then measuring the amount of water displaced could determine the objects volume. And then realized dividing the weight by volume could determine the objects density. It was an epiphany.

    So excited was Archimedes he jumped out of the tub, still naked, took to the streets, soaking wet, and shouted Eureka! I have found it! A major scientific breakthrough had begun.

    When Isaac Newton took a walk in the garden one day he noticed an apple fall from a tree. In that moment he realized the force drawing the apple to the ground was the same force causing the moon to orbit the earth. It was an epiphany.

    The law of gravity had just been discovered, opening up major breakthroughs in math, physics, astronomy. All thanks to an apple, a tree, a connection between the two never made before.

    Most importantly, an epiphany, as the term was originally understood, is a revelation of the divine. It offers deep insight into the relationship between Creator and created. A divine epiphany carries with it –

    A reordering of all it is we think we know.

    And *that* is what we celebrate every January 6.

    When kings – tradition suggests there were three – saw a star in the heavens rise it carried new meaning. Sure, they’d seen stars before. But this particular star stood out from the rest. Some say it was brighter, others bigger. Perhaps they, too, heard the hosts of heaven proclaim glory to God that first Christmas day. Perhaps they too, heard those angels make a bold claim, that a savior, for all the world, had been born.

    Convinced the stars in their orbit had been newly realigned, the kings traveled to where this one star led. When they found what they sought they bowed down, and they worshipped. They celebrated the arrival of a new king, still quite young. A king that would reign, now and forevermore, very soon.

    They brought gifts to mark the occasion. It was a ceremonial coronation of sorts. The three kings certified this divine election, by recognizing Jesus for who he is.

    That Jesus is the Christ, God incarnate.

    This wasn’t just an epiphany.
    It was *the* Epiphany.

    The manifestation.
    The reveal.
    The watershed moment for all human history.

    The Epiphany was not without consequence. For new leadership, when recognized by others, can be scary for some.

    Nadia Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran pastor, puts what happened next in scripture this way – “on Epiphany, an insecure ruler named Herod was so threatened by the birth of Jesus that he tried to overthrow the result by putting a hit out on a toddler.”

    Ponder that for a bit.

    Four days ago, on January 6, our country came under attack from within.

    Non-truths were repeated, seemingly without end. Some wielded weapons, others riot gear. The vast majority of rioters were white. Many brought flags: the Christian flag, the Confederate flag, a flag reading “Jesus saves,” just to name a few.

    the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

    They marched,
    They mobbed,
    They destroyed.

    They tried to disrupt what, in any other year, represents a simple clerical step, along the way to a peaceful transfer of power.

    Instead, the day was marked by violence, injury, loss of life.

    We’re left to conclude our democracy can’t be counted on as much as we may have assumed. It was a sad, sad day.

    As we learn more about the events that unfolded we are left to wonder what epiphanies this day may hold. We’ll synthesize all sorts of information, trying to make sense of it in new ways. May we learn well.

    Reflecting on this, for now, I’d like to make a few things clear.

    Violence is never of God. Christ came as the Prince of Peace, not a tool of empire. When we see Christian flags, and “Jesus saves” flags, raised in the midst of a violent mob, we know people have been led astray.

    White supremacy is sin. Period. For all of us were made in our Creators image, regardless of any differences people use to oppress. The confederate flags that entered our capital speak volumes. Forgive us, Lord. Show us your way.

    We are called to love the Lord our God, and to love our neighbor as ourselves, above all else. That includes love of country. When we worship a person, a party, or a platform, it is idolatry.

    Four days ago, January 6, was a memorable, memorable day. Christians know well what this day represents. We celebrate every time it comes around.

    It puts us at ease.
    It is a sign of stability.
    It represents something we can count on.

    No matter what.

    The date signifies a time of transition, to be sure. A transition from a human leader, to a heavenly one. It is a look back, to a birth in a manger. It is a certification, by earthly kings, that this birth matters. It is, ultimately, a look ahead. To a time in the not-too-distant future. A time marked by –

    Hope for brighter tomorrows.

    That’s the Epiphany.

    In ten days, January 20, leadership of this country will transition from one person to the next. It’s been that date for a while now. A sign of stability we can usually count on. This year is a little different; that once set-in-stone date may come earlier, depending on the actions of a Cabinet, a Vice President, a Congress.

    Amid so many hopes, so many fears, let us pray, for:

    Peace, during a leadership transition unlike any in our lifetimes,
    Wisdom, for those tasked with keeping us safe,
    Justice, for those that wrought violence, often in God’s name.

    World leaders will fail us.

    They have before.
    They will again.

    Instead, let us cling to the promise of Epiphany. A day when world leaders bowed down, prayed, and made a bold proclamation.

    It is a promise we too can pin our hopes on, no matter what.
    It is a promise we too can claim, despite the chaos that swirls around.

    That Jesus Christ, over and above all else, is Lord.  Amen.