Donald R. Elly, M. Div.
Megan McKenna, outstanding storyteller and interpreter of scripture, caught my attention when she summarized the meaning of Epiphany in these words. “Advent (light far off), Christmas (light that interrupts and explodes into night’s darkest hour) and Epiphany (light let loose in the world)” 1. This description ties this span of sacred days together while identifying their unique focus.
Epiphany means “manifestation” or “appearance “of Emmanuel (God with us) for the whole world. The temptation of Christmas with its emphasis on eating, gift giving and family gatherings pulls us away from the fact that Jesus was born to Mary, a teenage peasant woman, by the Holy Spirit in the poverty of a stable. Epiphany is like the public announcement of a birth that has taken place and lets the world know the joy and hopes that are now real. This gift of God is not just for Israel. It is cosmic and for the whole universe.
In Matthew’s narrative Jesus is not an infant, but a child visited at home by wise ones from the East who followed a star, God’s GPS to where mother and child are. Jesus’ humble surroundings in Bethlehem stand in stark relief to King Herod residing in Jerusalem. For Matthew Jesus is the true King of Israel, a fact laid genealogically in tracing his lineage back to David and this is rooted in the Hebrew scriptures. This gift of God in the flesh is a threat to all the authorities–civil, political or religious—that often become god claiming our loyalty.
Matthew’s choice is made clear in the story. In Jesus God’s love is let loose in the world, and life’s deepest meaning is not imperial power but humble service. We may not have gold, frankincense or myrrh, but what God most desires is our love let loose in the world to bear witness to God’s love, justice, compassion and peace.
1 Megan McKenna. Advent, Christmas & Epiphany: Stories & Reflections and the Sunday Readings, Orbis (1998) pgs. 218-222.
January 6, 2019; Cycle C; The Epiphany of the Lord
Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-14; Eph.3:1-12; *Matthew 2:1-12