We don’t think much of it now. Our popular culture is fixated on Christmas and Easter as the two most important days of the Christian calendar. In some sense, this has spilled over to our religious observances too, so that even though Epiphany is considered a principal feast, most people do not know much about Epiphany. And for popular culture, it is totally about Christmas, it is Christmas that matters, much more so than Easter. Christmas presents have really nothing to do with the birth of our Savior. And yes, there is a cultural-religious history that united the winter solstice celebrations with Christmas, and that may explain part of the massive exchange of presents, but it really has a life of its own.

This may be your first Epiphany service in quite some time or ever, and that is okay. However, Epiphany became a celebrated holiday even before Christmas did. At the council of Tours in 567 AD, it was decreed that the time between Christmas and Epiphany should be all one of celebration. You may be here just for the burning of the greens, and that is okay too. In all honesty, the burning of the greens will probably be my favorite part of the night as well. I love a good bonfire.

Now the celebration of Epiphany has to do with the revealing of who Jesus is, the Good News of Christ Jesus coming to the Gentiles. This is, of course, linked to when we celebrate the magi, the wisemen, (and at one time termed “kings”) come to visit the Christ Child.

As Christians we read Isaiah slightly differently than the Jews. We often use prophetic writings to point to Christ, when this was not the intention at the time. The Old Testament reading may feel a tad bit confusing. For the Israelites, in the reading from Isaiah, the prophet is commanding the people to live into their best selves because God has come to them. The verb forms are not suggestions, they are commands to “arise, shine, for their light has come”. This should be true at all times, but we are guilty of the Christian propensity of reading Christ into the reading. It isn’t wrong per se, but it does not reflect what the reading would have meant to those hearing at the time. We may have different understanding of what light this is, but … Still as children of God, we are to Arise and Shine, for our light has come. The ethics of how we are to live as God desires does not change.

And so, as I said, Epiphany marks the beginning of the world knowing that Christ has come into the world. I guess in the worldly scheme of things, Mary and Joseph and some few random shepherds do not amount to much in terms of number or in terms of the world knowing; they do not constitute much of the world… BUT a pilgrimage to see the Christ Child, by outsiders, who are not part of the nation of Israel, and are from far off places, this makes it into the books. This is remarkable. Not that people, magi, wisemen could figure out the signs that might lead to Bethlehem, but that they are actively seeking Jesus, the Christ Child. In Matthew’s Gospel, the Gentile magi bring riches/ presents to the Christ child.

It is with gratitude that we see that the flipside is more often the case…. In Ephesians, it is God in Christ who seeks the Gentiles. The Ephesians text is about God’s hidden wisdom in Jesus Christ now revealed to all of humankind. In Ephesians the apostle brings the “boundless riches of Christ” to the Gentiles.

We may relate to these texts thinking that we, like the magi, are constantly seeking God in our lives, seeking Jesus. More often than not, I think, it is God calling us, telling us that we are to arise, and shine, live life differently because our light has come into the world. It is we who have been sought by God. God seeks each of us out, through Christ, to know the boundless riches of Christ, and to share these with others.

We do well to remember that God’s seeking us…as we meet God in our seeking… it will cost us. It will cost us the old, small lives we live, to live anew in an abundant LIFE, a fullness of life, one whose joy and LIGHT will shine only when we let go of our old, attachments and thin visions and make room for all at the table.

The magi came to know this. May we come to know this. May we come to see in the Light that God shines upon us in the coming of Christ – the One born of Mary, given for us, inviting us…coaxing us… provoking us… calling us to lay down our lives, and in so doing, to live into LIGHT and LIFE. -Sarah Colvin


Isaiah 60:1-6
Ephesians 3:1-12
Matthew 2:1-12
Psalm 72:1-7,10-14