Today is the Epiphany, also known as Three Kings’ Day.
This is a weird time.
Christmas ended yesterday. Who still has Christmas decorations up?
(Rising my own hand). Although I may be a slicker, I am not a complete Grinch.
Tomorrow is the “Time after Epiphany”.
Epiphany is a special day in the church year celebrating the Wise Men, or Magi, or Kings, who visited the Christ-Child… but tends to be included in our Christmas story… so it seems strange.
These men, however, provide an Epiphany (or Revelation) about who this Christ-Child is, what the mission will be, and the ministry for that mission (we are called to continue).
We have a season to sort through the epiphanies and revelations, which will offer a new one each week until Ash Wednesday.
This first epiphany tends to focus on the gifts that these Wise Me brought, but I want to take a different focus.
We think of Advent as a time to prepare our homes, hearts, and lives for the Christ-Child, right?
Then, Christmas comes and we celebrate the arrival of our guest.
But Epiphany is a time to welcome others into our homes, hearts, and lives.
I consider my home to be my sanctuary. Does anyone else?
It is the place you go for safety.
It is the place that provides you comfort.
It restores your heart and soul with hope, peace, joy, and love.
If you are similar, you tend to safe-guard your home against people, things, and energy that is less than hopeful, peaceful, joyful, or loving.
Epiphany is the traditional day for a house blessing, although it is not done as it once was.
In times past, a house blessing was a big, ol’ party with family, loved ones, and friends. You all would go room to room reading scripture and reciting prayers asking for the house and household to be protected from evil (the negative) and filled with nothing but light, hope, peace, joy, and love. Thus, it would become your sanctuary away from the darkness of our world. Afterwards, you would eat and party, in order to fill your home with all that good/positive energy.
It is similar to de-cluttering your home, in order to fill it only with the good stuff.
Epiphany is when the Wise Men were welcomed into the home of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. Our image is that the Wise Men arrived the night of Jesus’ birth or shortly thereafter, but according to scripture Jesus would have been approximately 2 years old.
After the sermon, we will have a short version of a blessing for the church to mark this space as a sanctuary freed from darkness, drama, and all negativity so that only light, hope, peace, joy, and love may abound.
While we may think about it within the walls of our home and church, I want us to consider the same for out these doors in the world. I want us to consider it, not as the church within these walls but as “church” was intended… those gathered in Jesus’ name here and throughout the world.
I want us to be a light to ALL, a light that reflects Christ in hope, peace, joy, and love.
I want us to be the light that enables us to not welcome only the Wise Men into our church, home, and hearts but also what these Wise Men symbolize.
Tradition had long-held that the Messiah (Anointed One) would come for the Jewish people, and the Jewish people alone NOT those “others”.
In Seminary, I had a professor who reminded us each session “these were uncircumcised, pork-eating Pagans”. Seriously, we had shirt made that read:
“I ❤ Uncircumcised, Pork-Eating Pagans”.
At first glance, we tend to hold that the Messiah was abandoned by the Jewish people and the Spirit opened Jesus’ ministry and mission to all on Pentecost. However, the Wise Men remind us that the mission, the ministry to the “other” was intended from the beginning. We have, according to tradition, three uncircumcised pork-eating pagan kings, magi, or wise men (pick title of choice) who came and bowed at the feet of a toddler giving him symbolizes communicating:
- Jesus is the King of kings;
- Jesus is a great Prophet; and
- Jesus would die (on behalf of his people/the world).
Thus, the mission of God’s grace for ALL was before Christ was born.
I do not know about you, but my ancestry is primarily the British Isles and thus the uncircumcised pork-eating pagans, and therefore I am glad Jesus’ ministry and mission was for ALL.
During the next 8 weeks, we will hear epiphanies about Jesus’ identity, his mission, and his ministry that he has called us to continue. It is to be a blessing and carry that light out into our world, which means loving and serving our neighbors, welcoming the stranger, and being Christ’s presence in our world.
Is that an easy task? NOT AT ALL.
But, I hope this season that you will join me in trying your best to be a blessing for all people. Amen.