Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013
The Epiphany of the Lord
Isaiah 60:1-6
Ephesians 3:2-3a,5-6
Matthew 2:1-12

This is a feast day that has had a variety of names. As a child, I knew it as “Little Christmas.” In England, they call it Twelfth Night because it signals the octave day of Christmas.  Despite several other names, its theological meaning is that this is the day when we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord — the revelation of the Messiah as the Savior of all peoples. Until the arrival of the legendary three kings, all of the characters in the Christmas story are Jewish. Jesus himself is Jewish and his arrival was the fulfillment of the promises God had made to his chosen people, the Jews. But the Magi are not Jews and Matthew tells of their coming as the first indication that the light Jesus brings shines on all peoples.

The First Reading speaks of the New Jerusalem and Isaiah imagines Jerusalem as the light of the world. After living so long in darkness, Isaiah is the herald of a new dawn: “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.” The light does not come from the sun but from Yahweh.  

Few symbols are as powerful as light.  We bring light to one another in countless ways that range from the night light in a child’s room to the profound and intimate ways we “light up one another’s lives.”  The symbol is one that is invoked myriad times in Christian worship, most profoundly at the Easter vigil.  Always light points to Jesus.  Always it hints at the “epiphany”— the profound revelation that puts all else into perspective.

As people, we continually look for understanding about the things that surround us, the values that guide us, and for clarity about our present and our futures.  This light, it becomes apparent, is not something that we can draw from within.  It can reach us only through others, the parent who turns on a night light, the teacher that directs our thought processes, the friend who brings meaning to shared events. Their relationship with us illumines our being and helps shed light on unknown areas.  Moreover, it opens us to the light that illumines everything else — the Light of Christ.

Jesus has brought the light of understanding to us.  He has proclaimed by his birth that nothing need divide us.  He has become the light that will bring us together, the light that will unite the community.  He is the light around which we gather and which we invite the world to share.

While the world searches for meaning, Christians gather at the altar to announce that we are the community that has found that meaning.  We gather to say that unity is our goal and that unity comes through acceptance of Jesus Christ. It will come through living the Christian life and through acceptance of the light.  We walk in the light with the assurance that peace will be with us and that unity will come.