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Sermon for Epiphany Sunday

The Rev. Cameron O’Riley

Readings for Epiphany Sunday- http://www.lectionarypage.net/YearABC_RCL/Epiphany/Epiph_RCL.html

Epiphany Sermon 2019

On December 26th, the second day of Christmas, my cousin shared a video of her 2 ½ year old daughter holding two folded pieces of paper. One in each hand. When asked what they are, she determines they are Christmas Cards sent from her Uncle Rhett. As the tag line, her mother wrote “[Baby Girl] is going to be so sad when she realizes that Christmas is over! She keeps asking when Santa is coming back, where Poppa Elf is, and where are more presents.” My cousin further clarified that those Christmas Cards, were in fact NOT from Uncle Rhett, but were really Dollar Shave Club inserts.

I was aghast, and immediately typed, with perhaps an excessive use of exclamation points, “But Christmas isn’t over! We get 12 days of Christmas!!! We celebrate until Epiphany on January 6!” A fact she is well aware of considering our Grandmother’s birthday was on Epiphany. Let that sweet baby keep on celebrating!

That is the conundrum though, isn’t it? How to forge on when the seemingly grand celebration is over. When it feels as though there are more nettles on the floor than on the tree, when the boughs have begun to sag, and the pretty twinkly wrappings in which the gift was swaddled have been discarded. When life has begun to return to its usual routine, and we can hide from the media barrage no longer.

I can’t deny that it is challenging to carry the magic of Christmas into the days beyond and into all seasons of life. But incarnationally speaking, the wonder, the mystery, and the majesty do last. The gift of the Incarnation is that Christ always was, always is, always will be with us.

Today is Epiphany Sunday, the season of Christmas is officially over, and in less than 12 hours, the annual pageant will take place during the 5:30pm service. For some, the production of these enactments can be stress inducing with the pinning of halos, the learning of lines, and the distribution of costumes. But personally, as y’all have heard me say time and again, I LOVE Epiphany Pageants with their wayward lambs, errant little angels, twinkling stars, anxious wise-people and their camels, beaming Holy Mothers, Josephs hesitant to hold Mary’s hand, dogs dressed as donkeys, and Youth and Adults who are still willing to dress up and join in so that the whole church from the youngest to the oldest can be witness to the light of Christ in one another. It is an opportunity to engage with and live out one of our most sacred stories as Christians. Granted we’ve played with the storyline a bit. We’ve taken bits and pieces of different Gospel stories, added in a few apostles, saints, and historians. So, while perhaps not completely historically accurate, it is all done in an effort to embrace the spirit of the most sacred story of a journey to a place called Hope.

Barbara Crafton in her book, Come Here Jesus, released this past fall, reflects on her own experience with pageants, recalling that as a child the pageant ended the same way every year. “After the shepherds and the angels had departed, after the kings had given their gifts, after Mary had sat very still for all three verses of “Silent Night” while [they] all watched her ponder things in her heart, these Elizabethan words from the prologue to the Gospel of John” were spoken. Words we heard just last week from John “who draws us away from the manger, away from Bethlehem, away from the Holy Land, away from the earth- out, out into the mysterious universe, out into the mystery of time and the creation of everything that is.

And the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”[1]

And thus, the lessons from last week and this week merge together as “We are invited to dwell in the Word made flesh and to bring our darkness to the place where it can comprehend [God’s] light,”[2]a star shining in the East, dazzling the cosmos. “The star the magi followed was the word of Christ. They never traveled alone. All along, Jesus was with them and calling them to [him]. His word, his presence, appeared to their eyes as a star, to their minds as a power to get up and go, and to their hearts as a longing and desire, an absence that held the divine presence within them.”[3]

Crafton invites her readers to recall the Christmas of 1968, when the crew of Apollo 8 read to viewers and listeners across the globe the story of creation.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

Crafton muses that “as they read the ancient words, they beheld the earth in a way no human being had ever seen it: hanging in the blackness of space like a bright jewel, its waters a rich blue, its continents snowy white…They read Genesis from space on that Christmas fifty years ago, not the first chapter of John” (or the story from Matthew or Luke) but choose “our ancient mythology over our ancient mystery. But both…tell the same tale, each in its own way: this was our beginning, this Word. Everything emerged from it and continues to emerge, traveling through space, traveling swiftly along with all the other bodies in motion: all the stars, every planet, asteroid, all the space dust, the molecules and atoms, the subatomic particles- all of us.”[4]

“God’s glory shines among us in Jesus Christ with vivid signs that move heaven and earth.”[5]A light shone down on us. A star of hope shines bright for us, and with us, and in us. We have been made living lights of Christ. Therefore, to help you embody and practice being the light bearers you are, you have been given a gift, an epiphany star of your very own, a star word. In your bulletins today, you will find a simple bright star with a word written on it. “The premise is this: the magi followed the star to find baby Jesus, bringing their gifts. We are also seeking Jesus, trusting God can/does use many signs (or stars) to guide us closer to the Divine presence.”[6]As we celebrate the experience of Epiphany, the star at its rising, you are encouraged to take this star with you, don’t discard it. Take it home, hang it up where you will be sure to see it every day. Ponder these words in your hearts, reflect on what significance this word might have in your life, what it may mean for you in the coming year, how God may be guiding you.

Throughout the year, you are encouraged to share some thoughts, either briefly or at length, about your star words with us and one another. “Thus it [may] be that on a bright summer Sunday in the heat of August, we will be reminded of” the wonder, mystery, and majesty of Christmas and of that January Sunday surrounded by candles with random stars taped to your bulletins when we were called to reflect on the brightness of God who continually guides, encourages, and strengthens.[7]“The more we become aware of ourselves as shined upon, the more we are able to reflect, and the more we are able to shine.”[8]Perhaps that is what is meant to be the delight of Star Words.

The story of Christ continues to live through us, through the children, Christmas cards, the heavenly hosts, and yes even in pageants. There is good news in the gift that has been given to us in the birth of Christ. We are called to follow unexpected lights, dancing stars that guide our way, to pray for peace, to give thanks, utilize the spirit of wisdom which has been given to us, and act with faith and courage in the face of risk and danger. These are the gifts we bring.So that with the eyes of our hearts enlightened, we may know what is the HOPE to which he has called us, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe.[9]

 

[1]Come Here Jesus, Barbara Crafton, 2018

[2]Planning for Rites and Rituals, Yr C, 2018-2019

[3]https://interruptingthesilence.com/2018/01/07/what-is-absent-from-your-life-an-epiphany-sermon-on-matthew-21-12/

[4]Come Here Jesus, Barbara Crafton, 2018

[5]New Proclamation, Yr C, 2013

[6]https://revgalblogpals.org/star-words/

[7]https://www.reformedworship.org/article/september-2009/star-gifts

[8]Connections, Yr C 2018-2019

[9]Paraphrase of Ephesians 1: 18-19

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