The Feast of the Epiphany (and the season that follows) is a festival of light. As with Advent, the season that need not be cast in binary terms of light in opposition to dark. In my preaching (and social media posting), I have observed that the light does not hate the holy luminous darkness that gives it birth (with a nod to Howard Thurman for the expression “luminous darkness”). Both are the abode of God. The light of Epiphany is the light of God’s love shining in and through in the world and the word throughout the scriptures. In this season we will see the light of God shining in and through Christ, God’s love made manifest.
It is a season of revelation. God and God’s love are being continually revealed in the world of the text and in the world that reads it. Sometimes it will be hard to see the light, to keep it kindled and the hope it represents with it. Shadows and sorrows encroach. No matter how bleak the gloom that overshadows, even the deepest dark of night is a resting place for the rising of the dawn.
In the festal readings, the first lesson addresses the people as God’s daughter (made clear by the style of translation in Year W). It is the familiar lesson with camels and gifts of gold and frankincense conjuring the gospel story of the magi and the later Christian tradition of the three kings. As always, it is important to read the text in its own ancient context, a prophecy giving voice to the hope of Zion’s restoration. The psalm makes clear that the light of God’s love is not limited to one people or nation. The epistle is set in a time when social and political realities encroach upon the light of the gospel in Christ Jesus and faith itself is an act of resistance with women’s faith held up at the textual exemplar. This is not the case for the majority of Christians in the world. Western Christians are more likely to endanger others with the political power Christianity has accrued then be endangered. In the epiphany gospel, “sages” without gender or number come seeking the Christ child a year or two or more after his birth. It is among other things a story about interpreting scripture.