“God saw that the light was good…” Genesis 1.4a
As January begins, we have before us the open weeks and hours of another calendar year. While some dates and plans have been penciled in already, the wide open spaces in our planners allow us to take a moment to think afresh about our goals and priorities.
Epiphany comes to us as a perfect complement to this time of year. Picking up where the dozen days of Christmas come to their Magi-gifted conclusion, Epiphany is a spotlight to help us see the continuing wonder and the meaning of what it means to have God among us.
If Christmas is the articulation of the doctrine of the Incarnation, “veiled in flesh the Godhead see,” the season of Epiphany is its application, showing us where and how the glories of the “Immanuel” make a difference to the expectant people of God. To the penitents standing on the banks of John’s Jordan, to the disciples who begin to follow him, to an unsuspecting couple whose wedding day has more guests than budget, and on and on to the Mount of Transfiguration.
At each step, Epiphany asks us to look for the epiphany, or breakthrough where we can see the unveiled glory of Jesus Christ. The unveiling is always a gift of grace. No one has deduced and demanded the revelation of the Son of God. But God reveals Himself through Jesus, and Jesus reveals himself to be God to both Israel and the nations.
This series of revelations or unveilings of Jesus’ identity and intentions often get described in terms of light coming into darkness. The Old Testament reading for Sunday takes us to Genesis and to the beginning for the beginning of a new year. It says that when God saw the light he created through his word, he saw that it was good. He takes it in, now actual and not just theoretical, and he evaluates it as being good.
The Bible usually sees (ISWYDT) darkness as a problem or obstacle. It is sometimes a signifier of evil and danger, judgment, or undeveloped potential. John says that Jesus is the light who came into the world, and the darkness in the world was both powerless to overwhelm him and also unable to rightly perceive him. Darkness as enemy and darkness as disability.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1.5
As we begin a new year together, we are mindful that we all know someone who has not yet seen how good the light is. Maybe they’ve heard that it is, perhaps they’ve appreciated the positive effects in others, but they have not yet seen that it is good for themselves.
Their own eyes and perhaps our unfocused vision as well, have so far missed the epiphany of the glorious Christ who shows his glory in such indirect ways, through baptism with sinners and service at a reception and compassion to those who do not yet see. In Israel and the nations. Jesus refracts his glory through the multifaceted and multi-fractured world so that the whole world might be illumined with the news of salvation.
It’s not surprising that they cannot see. The Magi were just looking at the sky until the unforgettable star caught their eye. John was baptizing all who came until the heavens opened and the dove descended to the sound of heaven’s affirmation. The stewards in the kitchen were just filling water pots until the new wine spilled over and renewed the joy of the feast.
Jesus is so patient and gracious to show himself to those who, for years before, and even halfway through, have no real idea he is even near them.
Join us tomorrow, Saturday January 6th at 9am for Holy Communion as we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany and the arrival of the Magi, concluding the 12 days of Christmas with the sharing of good news with the nations.
Next Sunday, January 14th, we are beginning a new series at 9am on Sunday mornings titled “Good News for the Neighborhood.”
Sheryl Shaw, our Missions Pastor and Erica Stephenson, our Youth and Families Pastor will be leading this four week exploration into how you can bring the light of Christ and the good news to those within your circles and spheres of influence. This would be a great way to begin the new year.
This Sunday, January 7th, we will meet at 9am to look at the Breakthrough themes and emphases of Epiphany as a way to frame our approach to discipleship in dark places.
Jesus stands beside those whose eyes are closed with an extended hand and patient insistence that it is good to be in the light. Because at the hand of Jesus, light is not distant or abstract but personal and present.
This video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EltIpB4EtYU
reminded me of the marvels of being able to see, and I think also of the perspective of Jesus towards those who cannot yet see. I know nothing about the non-profit organization highlighted here, so please don’t see this as an appeal for donations. I do see a story of two sisters who cannot see, and then they can.
God can see that the light is good. We, by God’s grace, are seeing that the light is good. Epiphany is a great time to pray that others, closed off now in darkness, will come to see how good and bright the light of Jesus is.
See you Sunday,