12 January 2018


The is the easy holiday is to miss. It comes with a bunch of names: "Feast of the three kings," "Epiphany," "The wise men," and "twelfth day of Christmas." I am sure there are more. In the secular world it is the day that villages and homeowners associations can require the removal of Christmas lights. All the names clearly suggests some confusion. So what is it really?

The liturgical name is Epiphany. It derives from a Greek word. An epiphany is a moment of understanding. I know a priest who calls it, "an ah ha!" moment.

So what is the church suggesting? Did the institution suddenly understanding when the mages came, or when the story was read? Did the mages have a sudden moment of understanding? Did Herod, Mary, Joseph, or someone else?

None of those possible explanations work. Especially when as I think we should, we pay attention to the related lessons. Sunday was the First Sunday After Epiphany. The Gospel lesson, which is also the lesson for Morning Prayer on Monday is the Christographic opening of the Gospel of John. John begins not with a birth narrative like Mark, Matthew, and Luke. Rather, verses 1 through 14 are a Christology: a statement of who Christ was through all eternity. Jesus was, in John's understanding, the Christ, the Word of God.

So finally, then what we are supposed to understand? The Church has told us a virgin had a baby, that angels sang, that Herod was a murderer, that mages came to see, that this baby became a boy, and then a preacher who did miracles, that he enunciated a radical new view of God, (or fulfilled ancient prophecies,) was falsely charged with sedition, murdered, buried, and yet now lives. That is a lot for an ah ha moment. But that is precisely what the readings say.

If all that does not make sense to you, you are not alone. Paul called it a foolishness and a stumbling block. I probably cannot convince you, especially as I wrestle with it. But perhaps, just perhaps if you investigate a Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, or Episcopal parish near you, you may find people who while wrestling with the foolishness are loving each other and reaching out to help those in need within and without their communion. Perhaps they can bring you to an "Ah Ha!" moment.

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