Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Epiphany

"When they saw the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy." Matthew 2:10

When I was a small child, some of my favorite cartoons on television were the Betty Boop cartoons. We didn't watch a great deal of TV in our household, but we were allowed to watch cartoons on Saturday mornings and rainy afternoons after school. Betty Boop cartoons had an direct impact on my life. When I was a child of 4 or 5, I used to ride my mother's electrolux vacuum down the stairs. Recently, I saw the very Betty Boop cartoon episode that inspired me to do that. My mother gave me that same electrolux years later and we have often laughed about my childhood antics. Betty had an uncle who was an inventor and, through his bright ideas, Betty got herself into some crazy situations. Whenever her uncle had a bright idea a light bulb showed up above his head. When we talk of having an epiphany in our present day, we say that "a light bulb went off in my head." We don't look for stars appearing - but we still look for a light in the darkness.

In Cape May Point, where my Mom lives, there is a lighthouse that is a focal point for the surrounding area. Although folks no longer navigate and find safe harbor by the lighthouse beacon, it remains a symbol of finding one's way in the dark, the promise of rescue and safe harbor and the possibility of home. The place where the lighthouse stands may not have been home for lost and stranded sailors, but it gave a reference point and the idea and possibility of a safe return, salvation and restoration. Maybe in times past people refer to having an epiphany as seeing a lighthouse beacon. Today we celebrate three wise men from the East, who had an Epiphany, who became the Epiphany (the light going off) for the whole world. They saw a star and followed it until they found the infant Savior of the World. The light came on for them and they would not give up until their dream became a reality. And for the church, Epiphany symbolically marks the time when the message of Christ's salvation was for the entire world and not for the house of Israel alone. The light went on for the whole world. The 'people who walk in darkness have seen a great light' no longer meant a specific people, but all people, including you and me.

So what do we do with Epiphany? Many people have taken down all of their lights and greens - all the symbols of Christmas are gone. And yet today is the day on which all of the preparation for the Nativity becomes real. The Wise Men get who Jesus is, and their arrival probably shocked May and Joseph more than any other episode in their young son's life. Today, we have the opportunity to turn the light on, to fully understand that we are loved by God beyond time and space and beyond the confines of denominations and countries. God has come into the world, the light of love is present, and no one can keep us from finding our way home to that love. Today, I want to be thankful for all the signs of love in my life and for all those who act as light and insight when the days are dark. May we all rejoice for the light has come and love is in our midst to stay.

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