Epiphany 2014

Epiphany 2014
I think “Winter Wonderland” should have been our entrance hymn instead of
“We three kings”. Although it’s mostly messy now, for a while everything
was sparkling, shining, glistening, glittering? I know not a word. So for a
few moments just notice the sparkling lights, the shining, glistening,
glittering that is meant to reveal God’s glory in the world.
Sparkles! If any of you heard me preach on Christmas Eve, you would have
heard that word multiple times. Sparkles! I told the story of my mother when
she came to Boston to celebrate her 90th birthday and how she wore a dress
that “sparkled”, “glittered”. She “glowed” when she wore it. She glistened
like the reflections of light on new fallen snow.
The only thing was that she left a trail of sparkles and glitter wherever she
went that day. We were finding glitter and sparkles everywhere. I suggested
in my homily that this was an apt image for the Incarnation, God’s coming
among us as flesh and blood and sinew in the life of Jesus and letting us see
his Glory in the most ordinary and yet miraculous events of human life, the
birth of a child.
Even before this moment in time when human and divine are born in this
child of Mary, there are traces of God’s glory from the very beginning of
creation. In a very real sense the sun and the moon and the stars and the
panoply of heaven and earth reveal the One who is Beauty and Holiness.
The world is charged with the grandeur, glory, glitter of God (thanks Gerard
Manley Hopkins). If we do believe in the Ignatian principle of “Finding
God in all things” and “all for the greater Glory of God” we may only have
to open our eyes to see the Glory of God shining forth in the most
unexpected places.
That is what this feast of Epiphany is really about, God’s glory shining forth
in the most unexpected place, manifested to the most unexpected, strangest
people. The Gospel writer Matthew needed to tell a story that would
illustrate that God’s promise to the nations from Isaiah was in fact being
realized in the birth of Jesus. He wanted to affirm that the message of
salvation was not just for the Jewish people but for the Gentiles as well.
He does this in a remarkably imaginative way. In fact, the story is truly
fantastical with appearing and disappearing stars, or even a comet leaving a
trail of stardust. The whole city of Jerusalem is a buzz with excitement about
this new born king. Through the centuries we’ve made it even more
fantastical, dressing these magi from the east as royalty who come to pay
homage to another “king”, the king of the Jews, naming them, crowning
them, spinning stories of journeys from far off places.
This is one of those passages of scriptures that excite the imagination of
composers, artists, poets. If you googled “adoration of the Magi”, how many
artistic works would you find, not to mention TS Eliot’s “Journey of the
Magi” and Gian Paul Menotti’s “Amahl and the night visitors”. Let’s just
say that the magi lend themselves to artistic I-magi-nation. (Yes, I used that
last year. Bears repeating!)
There is so much glitter and glow and sparkle and stardust in this Christmas
season that we may forget the essential message: God is for all and in all. In
Christ Jesus the Glory of God is seen shining forth through the miraculously
ordinary and ordinarily miraculous. The children’s writer, Madeleine
L’Engle in her classic Christmas book called it “the Glorious Impossible”.
What God has done in Jesus is made the Glorious Impossible, Gloriously
possible for all of us.
Think about it. Pray about it. Wonder as you wander. The miraculously
ordinary. The ordinarily miraculous. The Gloriously possible. Finding God
in all things.