Live in the Light
“Epiphany” is a Greek word, so of course I’m going to show off and give you a Greek lesson. Epi means “over” or “above;” phaino means “to shine” or “to appear.”
So, the name of the day literally refers to the star appearing in the sky, but “epiphany” means to us a sudden revelation or insight—you know, the lightbulb suddenly appearing and shining over our heads. As if the epiphany or Mary or Joseph had an epiphany and suddenly realized, “hey, this baby is Jesus!” As if an angel hadn’t already told them.
But what appears is light, the light of a star and the light of the world, who is Jesus. The prophet Isaiah says that the glory of the Lord will “appear over” a world covered in darkness.
And we are shown a world of darkness. There is a tyrant king, so desperate to maintain power; he’s quite happy with the way things are, with the Romans having conquered the Jews and using him as a puppet, because he gets to live in a palace while He doesn’t actually want God to send a saviour, even though he pretends to be religious and faithful. He is so desperate to maintain power and security and safety that he will, as the story continues, murder thousands of children just to get rid of the one who might overthrow him (and, spoiler, doesn’t even do that).
I have to ask whether that’s really so different than letting children die in detention because we’re so desperate for security. What’s so different than letting people go hungry because we’re desperate for comfort? What’s so different than letting other die in bombings because we’re desperate for strength?
We keep waiting for epiphanies. We see the darkness of the world and we wait for a new star. Then, things will change. Then we will see the light . . . about any number of issues. Marxists wait for the revolution; capitalists wait for the wealth to trickle down. In any case, we always say, “I will wait for it to happen, and then I will do something.” We will wait for the star to appear and then we will follow it. We will wait for the new year and then make resolutions, and after six days of not doing anything to achieve them, we’ll wait for next year.
In the story of our faith, the light has already come. It’s been shining in the sky for two thousand years, so what are we waiting for? The light will not appear over us, it is already with us. God lights it everywhere we are and calls us to follow it. For we Christians, Jesus is the light, illuminating the darkness by how he lived, his words of teaching, and his own death and resurrection. His love, most importantly, is the light of the world and we need to bear it, not wait for it.
This light is what Madeline L’Engle wrote about in her book, Walking on Water, when she wrote:
“We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”
So in this new year, let us not wait for epiphanies, divine inspiration from on high above us, but to see the newness of Christ, the light and the love, everywhere, and especially in our own hearts. Amen.