The Season of Christmas ends with the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6. This Feast, which we celebrated at Thursday’s service of Candlelight Communion, commemorates the visit of the magi to the manger in Bethlehem. Epiphany, a word that means revelation or manifestation, invites us to recognize and adore Jesus as the light of the world, God Incarnate, born of Mary to become one of us.
The 12 verses in Matthew’s Gospel that describe the magi’s journey have evoked countless pieces of music, paintings, poems, and popular practices that continue to stir our imagination. Each year, I am captivated by this story about people on a long, mostly nighttime quest. They sought out the King of the Jews, initially going to Herod’s palace, which seemed a likely place for this king to be. What they ultimately found was the Christ Child in a stable, lying in a feed trough, covered in rags, with only his parents, poor shepherds, animals, and the stars above as company. (Or, according to Matthew, he might have been in a house. But whether we look to Luke or Matthew’s account, the nature of Jesus’ birth in poverty and obscurity remains.)
Were the magi surprised? Probably so. Disappointed? Definitely not. The Scripture tells us they were overwhelmed with joy. They were able to see the truth of Jesus’ kingship even in his humble circumstances. We might say they were able to see God in an unexpected place.
The season of Epiphany is a time to look for the light and to have eyes of faith. Even if – or perhaps especially if – we’re feeling worn down by the pandemic, life in general, or whatever else, we can be assured that God through Jesus is here. He’s in the joys and sorrows. He’s in the wonder and the mundane. Most especially, he’s in our relationships and encounters with other people.
In her Epiphany sermon, Deacon Denise reminded us that “Regardless of how much we accept Jesus as our Savior, until we see him in the face of others, the path to him remains unlit.”
May we seek Jesus’ face in the knowledge that he lives within each of us. May we find him in Christian community, for which we were made. And may we be blessed with eyes of faith that allow us to see God in unexpected places, and respond with surprise and joy.