Epiphany, the last day of Christmas and the opening of the Gospel to the Gentiles as witnessed by the visitation of Jesus by the three wise men. It’s significance need not be lost on those of us outside the Jewish household. For without Epiphany…we are lost. Literally the light that delivered these travelers to the manger, or at least Bethlehem for surely Mary and Joseph would have found housing by then, is powered by the same grace that shines upon our lives and provides hope through our faith in Jesus.
In Ephesians 3, Paul confirms as much and indicates to us that he has been chosen to be a holy apostle who along with the prophets have been Spirit-filled for the sole purpose of bringing the good news of Christ to all people. And we see what all people look like within the birth narrative. Shepherds, the outcasts, are all people. You need not be looking or even acknowledging for the light of Christ to shine upon your life. Simeon and Anna, the devoted Jews who had been waiting their entire life to see the Messiah are all people too. Jesus said if you ask, knock and seek you will hear, the door opened, and you will find. Unlike the shepherds who were surprised by the news, Simeon and Anna stand for the faithful who are not surprised but instead are found waiting well refusing to leave even when things look hopeless. And you have the wise men who were probably rulers, definitely astronomers, who were outside the bounds of faith. People far away but who found themselves drawn by a mystery and ended up at the feet of the Messiah. All people means all people.
And here is Paul, having been a persecutor of the church now is its chief builder. The RSV says in Ephesians 3:2 that Paul calls himself a ‘steward’ of grace. What has been given him is not solely for him but for the benefit of others. In particular God desires to include those far away, ie the Gentiles, and build up a people, ie a church, in whom he can fill with wisdom for the world.
Paul becomes a giant light switch connecting the power of God to the people.
Every Sunday, I enter the Sanctuary early. And the first thing I do is push the button near the Gathering Hall door that says “sanctuary” on it. Upon depressing the button an amazing thing happens. As long as KU is not having problems, and our finance team has paid the monthly bill, the lights come on illuminating the room. Believe me, I am always relieved when that happens. Have you ever been in here when it’s dark? Youth…don’t answer that question or I may have words with our youth leaders!
We take for granted the light switch but it plays a vital role in our lives. It doesn’t create electricity. It cannot switch itself on or off. And it does not even understand how anything happens to make the lights illuminate. And that makes the example even more powerful for us. We, too, are like light switches from which God’s power flows through us to others In order to bring light.
And here is what happens…
- God’s grace is stewarded.
- God’s love is spread.
- God’s wisdom is conveyed.
And this happens through the revelation of God to us. It is not our idea. It is not our power. It is not our ingenuity or determination. “It is not” as Carlo Carretto said, “our beauty that attracts God to us, but rather it is God’s love that compels God to move toward us.” All of life therefore becomes response to God’s revelation. We have a term for a positive response…faith. For those who respond favorably and become stewards of God’s grace (ie. light switches), God stands prepared to use to the fullest extent. For those whose response is “no” or “not yet” God grace continues to shine upon their lives but the light does not come on. Either way God provides what is necessary. The result rests upon our response.