“Epiphany: Let’s Do This” January 6, 2019
“Epiphany: Let’s Do This”
Isaiah 60:1-9/ Ephesians 3:1-12
Epiphany, theophany, Denha, Little Christmas, Three Kings Day – no matter how we look at it, this day – January 6th, the 12th day after Christmas – has all the markings of greatness. It’s too bad that because it has meant so much for so many over the years that we have kind of lost our appetite for the Feast of the Epiphany. It wound up taking a back seat to the huge season that Christmas has become and then, let’s face it, after New Year’s most of us are ready for a little down time. I always felt sorry for kids who had birthdays right after Christmas. The enthusiasm level is never quite what you would expect. Now, some Eastern Orthodox denominations choose Jan. 6th as the day to celebrate the birth of Christ, and to further complicate matters this particular Sunday is sometimes set aside to celebrate the Baptism of Christ. So yea, a lot of stuff seems to be going on; too much stuff, actually. So here’s my take on Epiphany Sunday this time around: let’s just enjoy it. Let’s give thanks for who we are and for where we are and for what we do. Let’s turn off the news, get off our phones, and tone down all the noise the world loves to keep blasting at us and take gratitude in the few things that we hold to be constant and to be true. Above all else, let’s be thankful for our faith. Let’s be thankful that we, who come from all walks of life and different backgrounds, have this one wonderful thing going for us: our faith. It’s something that we tend to take for granted, but in reality it is a big deal. This is the epiphany I’d like to enjoy in this New Year: to be the church, to be the body of Christ.
Webster defines “epiphany” as “A moment of sudden revelation; a poignant, sudden, and profound understanding of something.” You can’t help but to like the idea. Everyone can appreciate a good “aha” moment now and then, and I for one will jump at the chance for a “profound understanding” of just about anything, but maybe the year that lies ahead doesn’t need to defined by sudden revelations. Maybe our epiphany can be something like, “Wow, look at us; we are the church. Let’s do this.”
In Bulgaria on this day, folks will gather for the traditional “Manifestation of God” or “Day of Jordan” celebration. On this day, a wooden cross is thrown by a priest into the sea or river or lake, and young men race to retrieve it. It is early January after all and the waters are close to freezing, but for some strange reason this is considered an honorable act and it is said that good health will be bestowed upon the home of the swimmer who is first to reach the cross. That is Epiphany in Bulgaria. Let’s not do that.
Russia has taken this a step further with a tradition that dates back to the 1500’s called the “Blessing of the Waters.” Believing that on this day water becomes holy and is imbued with special powers, Russians cut holes in the ice of lakes and rivers, often in the shape of a cross, to bathe in the freezing waters.
Some folks dip themselves 3 times to honor the Holy Trinity to symbolically wash away their sins and to experience a spiritual sense of rebirth. Orthodox priests are on hand to bless the water and rescuers are standing by for… well, what could possibly go wrong. Let’s not do that either. No, instead let us hold fast to the waters of our baptism and feast at the table that Jesus lays before us. Let’s do that.
Pray with me now…
O Lord, we are the church. We are the walking, talking, living embodiment of the son of God. So as the Christmas season comes to a close and the New Year begins, let’s take comfort in the thought. Let’s take comfort in the thought that as you walk with us, so do we walk with each other. As you care for us, so can we continue to care for those around us. And as you live in us, so can we be the Christ in this world if only we choose to live I you. Let this be an Epiphany moment that lasts and lasts. We can do this, Lord. Let’s do this.
Amen & shalom