The wise men, in truth, don’t belong in manger scenes. They arrived after Jesus was born, by some estimates up to 2 years after the birth. One give-away as to the timing is the mention of the wise men entering a “home” to find the baby Jesus. We know, of course, that Jesus was born in a stable, so Mary and Joseph must have remained in Bethlehem quite some time after Jesus’ birth, eventually living in a house.
The season of Epiphany, which starts January 6, commemorates the arrival of the wise men. The central image of this season is the star of Bethlehem. It symbolizes Jesus' birth giving light to the world and that his coming is truly for all people. Epiphany, however, has personal meaning. Jesus would later teach that not only is he the light of the world (John 8:12) but that we are called to be the light of the world too (Matthew 5:14).
Darkness abounds, but what does it mean to live in such darkness? My preaching professor, Dr. Fred Craddock, says:
We deceive ourselves if we think of primitive people in the dark remote areas of the world, still without digital watches and microwave ovens. We deceive ourselves if we think only of derelicts crawling along the dark alleyways of our cities. It is also darkness to refuse to hear the truth and to tolerate no teacher or preacher or politician who tells it. It is to avoid certain sections of town so as not to be disturbed by the conditions in which some have to live. It is to avoid any book or any speaker who shatters my illusions of innocence in this evil world. It is not to ask questions at work, at home, or at church because I prefer to let sleeping dogs lie. It is to persuade myself that problems in the schools, in the neighborhood, in society at large are really none of my business.
To celebrate Epiphany means being an Epiphany, a revelation of light, in the darkness of our world. We experienced that darkness yet again in the massacre at a New York rabbi’s home last weekend, as a deranged individual attacked Jews celebrating Hanukkah, the festival of lights. As I listen to Jewish friends I understand how these attacks cause fear for Jewish people everywhere. Each attack seems to put ideas in the heads of other crazed persons, which raises fear that such things might happen here.
This is why I would like to send a letter to the three nearest congregations to St. Luke’s: Indianapolis Hebrew, Beth-el Zedek and Shaarey Tefilla in Carmel. I want this to feel personal. I hope you will click on the link to read the letter and then add your name to the list of signers by replying to this email with your name. I will then print and send to the rabbis of these congregations next week. You can find the letter here. You may also sign an oversized letter at church on Sunday in the Gathering Area that I will deliver as well.
This is one way we can celebrate Epiphany, by letting the light of Christ’s peace and compassion shine through us. His Epiphany is ours as well.