Epiphany: Overwhelmed With Joy

Via Linda Nipperess at Pinterest.

Matthew 2:1-12

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 6‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” 7Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”

9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

***

Every year I’ve served a church I’ve preached on Epiphany Sunday. I love it. There’s something about the continuation of the Christmas spirit into the new year, and simply the word “epiphany” that draws me.

So, I’m going through some old sermons and here’s a little re-dux:

One year, I did my first baptism on Epiphany Sunday, and I said at the end:

Ann Weems author of Kneeling in Bethlehem wrote a poem entitled,
“Into This Silent Night” which felt appropriate for encouragement
as we continue to journey even beyond this epiphany moment,

“Into this silent night
as we make our weary way
we know not where,
just when the night becomes its darkest
and we cannot see our path,
just then
is when the angels rush in,
their hands full of stars.”

Epiphanies come to us in all shapes and sizes: angels, stars, babies, water, and in all sorts of moments: ordinary, simple, humble…sometimes, unexpected, and bright. They come to us to show us how we might be changed deeply, they show us how “the old gone and the new has come,” they come to show us another road. Friends, don’t be afraid of being waylaid, pause before that epiphany moment, take that other road with courage and hope as God shapes a bright new reality in us, one that is rich with God’s grace and kingdom.

Another year, I focused on the gifts brought by the Magi and asked:

This epiphany Sunday, this first Sunday of the New Year, I urge you to consider: What will you bring to the manger???

As God manifests God’s self to us in new ways this season, may we bring our own special gifts that express what God’s entrance into this world means to us…Whether it is gold and other treasures or a simple shepherd’s prayer, whether it is a broken and hungry heart or eager hands and feet, whether it is bread and a meal shared together or a song lifted up in praise. May all be a genuine response to the gift of life to all of us in Jesus, God’s only son.

Let me leave you with the poetry of writer Katie Cook:

Let us go in peace now;
For our eyes have seen God’s salvation.
We have stood, dumbstruck,
before the manger.
We have exchanged glances with the shepherds
and looked, sheepishly, out of the corners of our eyes
at the wise men.

We have listened, with terror and delight,
to the messengers with their extraterrestrial song.
We, who have walked so often and so long in terrible darkness,
have been flooded with holy light.

Let us go in peace now;
We have brought our gifts to the manger—
and for some of us
it was merely our broken selves—
but now, like the shepherds,
we must go back to our fields;
like the magi,
we must go home another way.

Let us go in peace now;
May this Holy Child guide our steps
into the new year
And give us the courage
to give birth to God’s realm.

I want to hold onto stars and babies, angels and shepherds, fields and fountains as I step into this new year. I want to be overwhelmed by joy, and carried by it throughout every situation.

And, though I don’t have any new year’s resolutions really, I want to take up Christine’s encouragement to seek out community more intentionally, and already I’ve had a few nourishing conversations, on the phone and in person. I can tell this will be a challenge, but something that will certainly sustain me this year, as well as bring me to a deeper understanding of friendship. Likewise, I loved Mama Monk’s list for 2012. I was especially compelled by silence and reading a poem a day. So, in the same vein, I’m going to read from Poetry 180, edited by Billy Collins, and try to blog at least once a week engaging a poem. I read the preface of it, and loved the intention behind it.

…I’ve been blessed this past year by so many blogs, particularly Emerging Mummy, Mama Monk, my dear friend Christine at These Stones, and Galit Breen at These Little Waves (who I came across at Write on Edge). There are sooo many more…those that kept me company late nights rocking the babies to sleep or laying in bed awake, and encouraged me in this new season of motherhood. Maybe I’ll have to save the specifics for another post.

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