Given for the Feast of the Epiphany, 6th January 2022
The Feast of the Epiphany can easily be eclipsed. Decorations have been taken down or look tawdry. Schools have reopened. People are busy about daily life. Into these ordinary patterns of life breaks the extraordinary hope of this feast. On this day the whole Christian Church, East and West, Catholic, Orthodox, and Reformed Traditions, gather to celebrate the Revelation of Christ to all peoples, to you and to me. For each one of us Christ, the Light of Life.
The feast appeals to everyone looking for meaning in their lives. The Magi, from ancient Persia, have followed the star along dusty roads and over mountains and plains. They are full of expectation and look for the new-born king. What will this star reveal? As the star shines its light into the home of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, their imagination asks who will this child become?
St. Matthew tells us that this King will bring salvation to all peoples, free them from their sins, and renew their lives. He is the One not only longed for by the Jewish people but also the answer to all human longing. The Christ Child is the Gift. The gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh reveal the King not of this world, the Priest who will offer himself for all, and the suffering that triumphs over evil, sin and death.
Our response can only be to kneel before the Child, open our hearts to receive his gracious and merciful love, and offer our lives to him. In the words of the well-known hymn, ‘The star of mercy, the star of grace, Shall lead thy heart to its resting place. Gold, incense, myrrh thou canst not bring; Offer thy heart to the infant King.’ (from Three Kings from Persian Lands Afar).
This moment of humble prayer is an opportunity to thank God for the gift of our baptism which we will celebrate three days after the Epiphany. At baptism we are welcomed into the Church as members of ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.’ (1 Pet 2:9).
We are now called the Beloved of the Father. He fulfils the deepest yearnings of the heart, heals our fragmented life, and offers each one of us new hope and renewed dignity. Let us throw off the old clothing and put on the white robes of baptism rejoicing in our re-creation.
‘Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition. Bear in mind who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God’s kingdom. Through the sacrament of baptism you have become a temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not drive away so great a guest by evil conduct and become again a slave to the devil, for your liberty was bought by the blood of Christ.’ (St Leo the Great, Sermon on the Nativity of the Lord.)
Bishop John Sherrington
Header Photo: Lawrence Lew OP (13th-century mosaic by Jacopo Torriti in the apse of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome)