Epiphanies are “aha” moments, times when we come to realize something that should have been as plain as the noses on our faces. This Day of Epiphany starts a chain-reaction of aha moments as the human family begins to recognize that Jesus the Messiah has come. The epiphany of which we speak is an increasing revelation that began with the shepherds and the Wise Men, extended to Simeon and Anna at Jesus’ presentation as an infant, then to John the Baptist and those who saw Jesus’ baptism, further to the servants of the wedding at Cana, and on to worshipers at his hometown synagogue in Nazareth. By the time this year’s season has come to its end at the Transfiguration, we will be reminded that God, who is greater than Moses or Elijah, is with us!
What we know of Herod we know primarily from a historian (Josephus) who did not like him, as well as from this testimony in Matthew. Herod was, by their testimony, insecure, paranoid, easily threatened, and ready to act violently if he thought someone might be in his way.But in Matthew’s story, our Christian story, Herod is not just a maniacal historical figure. He is also stand-in for the powers of the world. These powers keep others from accessing truth they do not want to be accessed, and then try to control the outcome of any truth discovered.
The Magi are free agents initially drawn into Herod’s scheme as pawns. The angels in dreams send them home by another way; and in the verses following, send the Holy Family into exile in Egypt, also as free agents. Herod lashes out with extreme violence, ordering the execution of every Jewish male under age two unless he may have missed someone.
God’s consistent activity in this story was Epiphany! God acted in surprising, transforming ways to subvert the powers that be and all they would attempt to stop God’s reign from being made known (Epiphany!) through Jesus. In nature, God arranged the alignment of planets viewed by the astrologers. Through the astrologers going to Jerusalem, the wrong people are asked and Herod’s suspicions are raised. Through Herod, the Magi discover where they need to go to find the king they seek. Through a series of dreams, God leads the astrologers and the Holy Family to safety in the face of what were very serious death threats from Herod. It is subversion after subversion, God never once using the “right channels” to spread the word of the newborn king and God’s kingdom surely coming to all the world. Not once. God always acted by Epiphany!
Have you ever thought of the things that the wise men did not know? Like Abraham, they set out on a journey, not knowing where it would take them (Hebrews 11:8). They did not know how long the trip would take when they decided to follow the star that appeared in the East. Then, they did not know how they would be received in the faraway foreign land. They did not know what the king would look like; nor did they know when or if they would return home. Yet they, like Abraham, chose to make the journey.
Following the light of God is a similar journey requiring faith. We often feel that we don’t know where our journey will lead us, and we certainly never know what we will find along the way. We do, however, know that God goes before us, and with us, and that the journey is not in vain.Notice the prominence of images of light in the Epiphany readings. So many people are looking for a light at the end of the tunnel — something to signal an end to the present madness. Their concerns and fears wear a dozen faces: loneliness, depression, economics, bullying, terrorism, disease, marital discord — the list goes on. Epiphany’s reminder of the unchanging love of God for us is as refreshing as a glimpse of light at the end of a dark tunnel.
This is the true meaning of the word Epiphany! Eureka I found it. I found the truth. I found life and purpose. I found the one who was foretold by the prophets of old. I found Jesus! So can you if you are willing to seek Him with your entire being. You must be willing to face opposition and overcome those who are more than happy to keep you ignorant of the truth. There will be many who will try to suppress the truth by their actions. They like Herod of old will do everything within their power to keep you from finding the truth and to hinder the truth from being found out.
You are being lied to my friends and I am here to tell you that you can get victory over Herod’s lies. His reign of destruction will not continue and will be brought to an end. But the Kingdom of God shall remain forever. Now that is something to shout EUREKA about.
But those who are waiting for the Lord will have new strength; they will get wings like eagles: running, they will not be tired, and walking, they will have no weariness.
Isaiah 40:31 (BBE)
Along for the journey
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