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Sermon for Epiphany 2020

Jan 05, 2020

Passage: Matthew 2:1-12

Preacher: Rob Donehue

Series: Sermons for Year A (2019-2020)

Category: Epiphany

Detail:

Sermon for Epiphany (Year A - 2019)
January 5th, 2019
St. Anne’s, Conway SC (Lackey Chapel)

Isaiah 61:10-62:3      Galatians 3:23-25; 4:4-7      John 1:1-18

 

Even though we are celebrating the Feast of the Epiphany this morning, technically today is the 12th - and last - day of Christmas. In fact, in many places, this evening warrants a special celebration all its own; the celebration is known as Twelfth Night, and Twelfth Night is observed as a way to mark the official end of the Christmas season. Before our son was born, I suggested to my wife that we plan to host a Twelfth Night gathering at our house, and her response can best be summed up with a line from the Shakespeare play, Twelfth Night: “Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb like the sun, it shines everywhere.”

So…skipping past such foolery, today we are celebrating the Feast of the Epiphany! And I’m guessing that you are all quite familiar with the gospel story we hear at this time each year: the story of the wise men from the east following a star and coming to see Jesus in Bethlehem. It’s a wonderful story. 

And people from time to time have actually looked into astronomical history to figure out whether there was in fact a comet or some other astronomical event that took place around the time of the supposed star rising. Investigations like that are designed to corroborate the record from scripture and prove that there were wise men who saw a sign in the heavens and made their way to Bethlehem to visit the baby Jesus, just as the scripture says. And if that’s your thing, have at it. Proofs of the accuracy of the story might be helpful, but I think that this story has a significance for us beyond mere facts. The thing that the story tells us is that complete strangers saw a light that they interpreted as significant and so made their way from their own home countries in order to see what this light was about. But in making their way, they had no idea about what its significance was. As we are told, they saw the sign as being an indicator that the “King of the Jews was born…” but that’s about it. 

They didn’t know the full meaning of what his being “the King of the Jews” would mean. But they made the journey anyway. They didn’t know that the light they saw would lead to the river Jordan where the baby they first met would be baptized by a strange man proclaiming a message of repentance and preparation. They didn’t know that the light they saw would lead to a mountain where the baby they first met would proclaim the message that blessed are the poor. They didn’t know that the light they saw would lead to that baby healing lepers and restoring sight to the blind. Nor did they know that the light they saw would lead eventually to a cross on a hill on an afternoon when the sun went dark. All they saw was a light. And they believed it signified something important. And so they followed.

Over the past several days, I’ve taken note of how my son reacts to light and shadow. When he’s awake, he tends to stare up at the overhead light. He doesn’t know where the light comes from or why it’s there. All he knows is that there’s light, and I might be projecting here, but he seems to like the light and likes looking at it; or at least is interested enough in it to stare at it and to know that its there when it’s shining. So I think that one of the first lessons he’s learning is about light. And God willing, as he grows, light will help him to learn more about the world. So, much like those sages from afar, his journey is beginning with light. 

Of course, the specifics of what my son will learn are as yet a mystery to me. In fact, one of the things that being a new parent has taught me is just how much I don’t know. All I know is that my job is to surround him with love and teach him that learning and growing, even though it’s not always easy, is a good thing. In other words, my job is to shine a light for him. 

In much the same way, as it relates to our Christian journey, all of us began our journey with a limited understanding. What I mean here is that when you first heard of Jesus; or you first became interested in learning more about God; or you first took your place in the church, I’m guessing you did not know the full significance of what your relationship with God would mean. Nor did you know much about the community you’d be a part of or what your place in it would involve. All you had to go on was the initial light as you began your journey. And that light has brought you here; no matter whether it’s your first Sunday or your one thousand and first. 

And the funny thing about following this light is that even if you’ve been following it for a long time, you still don’t know where it might yet lead! Just a few days ago, I came across a posting from a friend of mine on facebook, and she spoke about what an amazing journey she had been on since 2010 and how there was no way in the world that she could have predicted 10 years ago that her life in Christ would have led her to all of the things she had experienced. That prompted me to do a brief overview of the past ten years of my life, and I have to admit I share her sentiment: there’s no way I could have known ten years ago that following Jesus would bring me to where I am now. 

2010 - I left life in a monastery moved back to Charleston and became a youth minister.

2012 - I began discerning a call to ordained ministry.

2013 - I moved to TN and entered seminary. 

2014 - I got engaged. 

2015 - I got married and then spent a summer in Myrtle Beach.

2016 - I graduated seminary, received a call to St. Anne’s and moved to Conway; I was ordained to the diaconate and then priesthood.

2017 - We bought our first house. 

2018 - I was there as St. Anne’s became a full parish

2019 - I became a father. 

That’s a brief list, and there have been plenty of ups and downs in between, but it’s been an amazing journey so far! And I encourage you all to do this exercise for yourself and take a look at where your relationship with God over the last ten years has brought you. I think you’ll be amazed. Especially when you consider that your journey began by following just a little light. 

And if you do this review, I hope that you take note not just of the big events in your life, but also of the people who were involved in those events. Because I think that what you’ll discover is that all along the way, there were others who helped shine a light in your life. If you stop and remember those people, then there’s another valuable lesson to learn about your journey and your relationship with God. And it’s this: that our duty as Christians - as followers of Jesus - is to shine a light for each other and to help each other all along the way. 

On this Feast of Epiphany, we are all invited to remember the story that God’s greatest gift to this world was signified by a light shining in the darkness, and that even strangers from a foreign land were so intrigued by that light that they followed it even though they did not know where it would lead them. The same is true for us.  

We have been given the gift of Christ’s light. We cannot know its full significance yet, but if we’re willing to follow it, we will discover more and more about what it means for Christ’s light to be shining in the darkness of this world.  It will lead us to new discoveries. It will teach us wonderful and beautiful things. Yes, at times, it will expose us to dangers. But it will, at the last, light the way to our journey’s true end.