January 6, 2016
From Common Prayer – A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals*… “By the fourth century, Epiphany was a major annual celebration for the church. It is a season when we see Jesus’ divine mission revealed when the magi visit him, and then we remember his baptism, miracles, ministry and his call for us to follow.”
Nearly forgotten today by so many in my own tradition/expression of faith, today marks the day when others brought things to Jesus and not the other way around. You see, it’s quite rare these days for things to be presented to Christ first. One might argue that is as rare now as it was then. It’s all too common now to baptize or dedicate, to bless or curse, to pray for or perhaps even against, in the name of Christ and then to use our own version of righteousness to justify prayers answered, or our fallen-ness, or that of others, to explain prayers ignored.
This ancient entourage, however, followed the signs of their own “worldly” faith for what some to believe to be more than a two-year journey. We would call them pagans or worse, but they honored the social patterns and chain-of-command of the ancient world and sought out the regional ruler who pampered them with lip-service and a false face. They (dare we say “heathens?”) discovered the Holy Child in the house of his mother and they knelt. Not only did they worship something beyond their own belief, but they brought gifts that would equip, enrich and prophesy the life to come from this toddler. What IS a two-year old to do with embalming fluid, incense and gold? (Playtime must have been depressing, aromatic and frought with concerns of unintended entitlement…)
Yet we learn from them, and others, that so often outsiders are the first to see Jesus for who He really is. As if true revelation doesn’t have to work as hard to cut through the walls if we’d only choose to see it… The baby in Elizabeth’s belly jumps in divine joy. An aged priest holds the Christ-child for the first time and knows God. His own parents manage to leave Him at the temple in Jerusalem and it is the priests and scribes that recognize while they do not.
This Epiphany, maybe it would do us well to take off our blinders for a moment and see the Christ that others see and hope for the Messiah that they (the “unworthy”) would recognize. Perhaps, like so many before us, it will be through the eyes and hearts and lives of outsiders, of those quite unlike us, that we too can find anew the Hope and Light of this world that we have simply grown accustomed to.
A prayer for Ephipany
Lord, as I seek you
may I find a child.
Lead me through all that is false to innocence.
Lead me through the violence to peace.
Lead me through the desert to the water of Life.
Lord, as I seek you
may I be your child.