Universal Epiphany

Friday, January 6, 2012The Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p 943)

Psalms 46, 97 (morning) 96, 100 (evening)

Isaiah 49:1-7

Revelation 21:22-27

Matthew 12:14-17

In a darkened church a dozen evenings ago we sang “How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given.” Out of the darkness comes light. And just as the mysterious twinkle of a star or the energizing light of the sun falls on all humanity without distinction, so this light is given for all, not just for those who have known themselves to be chosen.

In his 12th chapter Matthew narrates the unfolding character of Christ’s light breaking through the artificial barriers of religion and law, tribe and geography, theology and family, gently bringing God’s good news of healing, blessing and compassion. He insists that Jesus is acting universally, yet gently, remembering Isaiah’s words “he will not break a bruised reed or quench an smoldering wick.” One of the gifts Jesus brings is the gift of justice.

Epiphany is the day when we celebrate the vision that Jesus is for everybody. We who are Gentiles benefit from his manifestation just as surely as those who are Jewish do. Just as the particularities of the sabbath laws could not contain his boundless compassion, neither can any Christian laws we may erect falsely in his name. At the end of chapter twelve, Jesus reinterprets the meaning of family, expanding it universally. Radical words in a patriarchal and tribal culture.

Those of us who have been given the treasure of this manifestation are also invited to recognize Christ outside our boundaries. There are still foreign wise men following other stars whose light draws them toward goodness, beauty and truth. How gently can we affirm our common journey toward the light that heals and brings blessing and compassion to all the earth.

On this feast especially, we confess the darkness of our acts to box up and possess the light for ourselves and to cast the other part of the world into a darkness made of our own shadow — the darkness of “them.” Our language of saved and unsaved, believer and unbeliever, redeemed and doomed, Christian and non-Christian. What an irony that in the name of Jesus we have created divisions. What a blasphemy that we have called on the name of Christ and made war on the “others”. Forgive us.

The light still shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. Let there be light. And let those of us who follow the light of Christ not be blinded to its manifestation beyond our nearsighted barriers.

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