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When the Light Comes On

You’ve seen it happen.  If you’ve ever taught, you’ve seen that moment when the person you are trying to teach finally gets it.  The capability, the potential, even all the data and resources are there, but then the neurons finally connect all of that in a meaningful way, and the light comes on.  Epiphany is that moment when the light comes on, or more specifically when the Light comes on.

Epiphany is an odd date in the church year.   Traditionally it is celebrated on January 6, at the end of the 12 days of Christmas, and, for most, marks the moment when the adoring Magi of the East arrived with their gifts for the Christ child.  But other traditions associate other events in the life of Jesus on or around this date, such as Jesus’ Baptism or His first miracle, the turning of water into wine.   And truth be told, while we tend to go with the wise men idea, if Epiphany is to be Jesus’ debut, Jesus’ coming out party, the other traditions are probably more appropriate.   Indeed, even if Jesus was a toddler by the time the wise men arrived, as some scholars think, it’s hard to imagine him ready for prime time at that point.  

But regardless of the date or dates we choose, or the names we place on them, the idea represented by Epiphany remains.  At some point in time, Jesus stepped out of the shadows of the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth to begin, in earnest, his ministry as the Son of God.  At some point, the Light of the World came out from under its bushel to shine brightly for all to see.  All that He was, was there all along.  But “in the fullness of time” all the pieces came together, and the connections were made, and the Light came on, and the darkness has still not overcome it.

It’s an important lesson I think in the purpose of potential.  Potential is always preliminary.  It’s a dependent state which can only be validated when that potential becomes realized.  Unrealized potential is not only sad, but ultimately irrelevant.  Eventually every nice idea has to come to fruition and make its mark, if it’s ever to get credit for the nice idea that it was.  As such, Christmas, the incarnation, God-with-us is an amazing idea, transformative to a degree in its mere utterance.  But words, and the ideas they contain, are cheap.   The real power of the Incarnation was how it was lived out in the life of Christ, and this began with Epiphany, when the Light came on.

“We are all meant to be mothers of God,” wrote Meister Eckart, a medieval mystic and theologian.  “What good is it to me,” he continued, “if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take within me?  And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace?  What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and my culture?  This, then, is the fullness of time: When the Son of God is begotten in us.”Meister Eckhart was speaking in the language of Advent and Christmas, of course, but I think his point is all the more fitting now at Epiphany.  The whole point of Christ coming as a baby boy was not to stay a baby boy, but to grow up and shine and reveal the love of God to all.  And if Christ is once again being born in and through us, then that same light, must at some point, grow and shine within us, “in our time and culture.”What might that look like for you?  For us?   What darkness of misunderstanding, shame, guilt, despair, prejudice, injustice, enmity, suspicion, doubt, etc., needs to be dispelled in you, through you, in us, through us?  It’s Epiphany, my friends.  It’s time to shine!

Grace, David


This article was written by Rev. Dr. David Breckenridge and originally published in the January edition of Together.



Posted by Bridget Ellis at 12:00 PM
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