Lectionary Reflection for the Epiphany of our Lord
January 6, 2013
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “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.” Matthew 2:1-2
Remember the character Waldo, who dressed in a red and white striped shirt, wore a bobble hat and glasses, and could be found hiding in a crowd? Wally, as he was known originally, is the creation of British illustrator Martin Handford, who first drew him in 1986, at the request of his art director at Walker Books. The challenge was to create a character that would stand out and serve as a focal point in Handford’s illustrations of crowds. The result was a lovable time traveler hidden in plain sight and manifested in four-color glory amongst ordinary folks engaged in a variety of activities. Wally is the star of books, video games, a comic strip, and a television series. Wally’s exploits have been reproduced in 29 international versions with localized names (Waldo in North America).
The celebration of the Epiphany of our Lord invites us to look for manifestations of Jesus in the world, in our communities, and in our lives. Jesus has been hidden in plain sight since birth; more than 2000 years later he is still visible yet often obscured by the glaring light and noise of the world’s powers and principalities. His inauspicious birth was not even a blip on the mental radars of the local religious and political leaders of his day until some foreigners showed up bearing gifts for an infant king identified by a star. Jesus’ next manifestation was as a refugee to Egypt, where his family fled to avoid Herod’s subsequent acts of murderous terror upon boy babies who might possibly be a threat to his throne.
We don’t know much about how Jesus manifested himself as a youth or young adult aside from his proclivity to hang out in his heavenly father’s house rather than staying with the family caravan during a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. I suspect he was extraordinarily ordinary, not unlike his counterpart “Joshua” in Christopher Moore’s satiric novel Lamb. One of my favorite scenes involves his dispassionate and repeated reanimation of a lizard his little brother keeps exterminating.
John’s gospel gives us plenty of signs in retrospect that point to the savior of the world, but it evidently wasn’t until after the resurrection that the Jesus movement gained some traction, and like most movements, became institutionalized–in this case as the church. Looking back across the centuries we can see an abundance of good punctuated by acts of audacious evil committed in the name of the Christ. Still, Jesus keeps showing up both in expected and unexpected places.
We celebrate his manifestation in the bread and wine of the Eucharist, in hearing and proclamation of the Word of God, and in the waters of baptism. We see evidence of Jesus in the gathering of the beloved community, the church, the body of Christ. We even see the divine imprint in creation and in one another. After all, we’re created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). But as the various expressions of the mainline church in the developed world face declining numbers and great suspicion from a post-Christian culture, where do we see Jesus beyond the walls and activities of the church? How do we experience and share epiphanies of faith and divine activity? In what ways might we reflect the light of Jesus into dark places so that his love and grace is made manifest to a hurting, broken, and often disinterested world?
Where’s Jesus? He’s everywhere. He’s as near as your neighbor and as far as the deepest darkest recesses of the cosmos. He’s holding the hurting, helping the hungry, comforting the afflicted, and afflicting the comfortable. He’s as near as the hands and eyes and heart with which we minister. Where’s Jesus? Look around you. If you really look, you will see and experience him, and that’s what the epiphany is all about.
This week portions of Psalm 72 are appointed for reading/singing. If you do not traditionally sing the psalm, this is a good week to consider a dramatic reading. Since this psalm is a prayer, consider using it as such. Insert “Hear our prayer, O God” between each verse (or choose your own wording). Consider using three or more voices for the petitions. Support the prayer with visual images if possible. Be sure to allow time between petitions for silence and meditation.
Consider a focus on the Epistle reading for this day (Ephesians 3:1-12). The gospel is for all people, so the question becomes how are we helping to spread this gospel to all people. What does evangelism mean in the 21st century for this generation? How can we BE Christians and let our light shine in a way that others can see? What does it mean for us to be “servants” of Christ in this time and place. Consider sharing the stories of those who have been imprisoned for the sake of the gospel. Click here for a short YouTube video about the Berrigan brothers. Click here to hear Martin Luther King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. You might discuss the ramifications, the positives and the negatives of this sort of activism. How does one determine appropriate actions as a Christian?
What treasure do you have to offer to Jesus? Talk to the children about the gifts that the wise men brought to Jesus. Click here for more information about these three gifts. What gifts of value do we have to offer today? What about time, talent, and treasure? What about love? How can even the littlest child bring gifts to God? Remind them that we all have gifts to offer. Suggest these three gifts to share with others in honor of Jesus this week: A hug, a smile, a drawing or picture. Tell the children that Jesus’ gifts of grace, love, and salvation are ours every day, and we can give back to Jesus every day, too.