Here are a couple more thoughts about Epiphany before I run out of January. These are taken from some thoughts I shared in a chapel service at my old school.
The Wise Men did not bow to a counterfeit light, they bowed to Jesus Christ. And the challenge of Epiphany is to be like the Wise Men: to look upon Christ and to see him for who he really is.
If you look at Jesus, and you think he is boring, you think he’s lame, you think he’s irrelevant, you are not seeing him for who he really is. If you can look him in the eye and scold him for not making things turn out the way you wanted, you are not seeing him for who he really is.
But if you look at Jesus and you see the one who lived a perfect life and then died to save you, to take away your darkness and cover you with his light, there will be no option but to bow in worship, and to offer your most valuable gifts to him.
How do you know that you are living in the true light? I want to give you four quick evidences:
1. Christ as Light shows you who you truly are.
The truth is that the darkness of our hearts is deeper than we even realize. We learn about the Aztecs and their human sacrifices, the Nazis and the concentration camps, corrupt modern-day dictators committing genocide on their own people, and we think “THOSE people are evil.” But all human hearts have the same darkness at their core. But the flip side is that Jesus had mercy on us, even when we were wicked, even when we hated him, the Bible says “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” So we are worse than we could ever imagine, but we are loved more deeply, more truly, than we could ever dream. In this way, the True Light of the gospel gives us humility and self-worth simultaneously. If you find you have one without the other, you do not truly know yourself.
2. Christ as Light enables you to properly interpret the world around you.
Most of us have good days and bad days, and the True Light helps us to see both of those for what they truly are. On the best days, we are overwhelmed with beauty, and joy, and peace. It’s wonderful to stand in a cathedral or see a view from a mountaintop, to hear a powerful musical performance or laugh with friends until our sides hurt. Those are the times when everything seems right with the world, and it’s always a little heartbreaking when the moment is over (and that moment always comes).
But Christ the True Light reminds us that those moments are not meant to satisfy. They’re meant to make us hungry, not just for more of the same, but for the God who is the source of all goodness, joy, beauty, and love.
But it’s not just the good days- We can also look on pain and disappointment with new eyes: Christ as Light reminds us that God “works all things for good” according to his purpose. Even as we suffer, we can trust that God holds us closely and will not waste our pain. Rather, he can use it to make us trust him more and ultimately to be more like him. The Light will show us that sometimes those hard days are the ones that we thank God for the most, because they’re the ones that have shaped our character.
3. Christ as Light will transform your relationships
Normally we approach relationships as consumers. We shop for friends like we shop for clothes, always looking for a bargain: Someone who will make us look and feel good, at the lowest possible cost. When someone begins to cost us more than we get in return, we un-friend them; we make some distance. But when our hearts are full to overflowing because of the love, value, esteem we’ve received from Christ, we have the capacity to love others unselfishly. It means you can love someone even when they are mean to you, or even when they annoy you. Because it’s not about what you get in return. When you have a million dollars in your wallet, and you know there’s more where that came from, you don’t have to be stingy; you can love generously.
4. Finally, Christ as Light will shine even during a power failure.
Almost any counterfeit light can get you through a day when everyone likes you, when your homework is easy and your team wins and your family gives you the respect you think you deserve. But what about all the other days? Most days have power flickers of annoyances and frustrations, and some will bring major blackouts: crushing disappointment, or the loss of someone dearly loved. On those days, it will matter where your light comes from. Will you be swallowed in darkness and despair? Or will you be able to press on, knowing that Christ in you gives you all the light you need?
Let’s pray together: “Almighty God, who has poured out upon us the new light of thine incarnate Word; Grant that the same light enkindled in our hearts may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.“