How do you know? Sun. Jan 6, 2019
How do you know? How did you decide on a career? How did you know what courses to register for in school, beyond those required? How did you know it was time to retire? How did you know which person to marry? Why do you believe in God? Why baptize your child? How did you decide to move to Canada, to Calgary, to the particular place you call home today? What signs have pointed you in one direction or another over the years? How did you know then? How do you know now?
Today we mark the end of the Christmas season with the coming of wise people to Jesus’ cradle-side, to pay Jesus homage and to offer gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. It is our celebration of Epiphany. ‘Epiphany’ means “to show, to make known, or to reveal.” We speak of epiphanies as our “ah-ha!” moments… moments of revelation… moments of deep knowing. Today strange soothsayers, magicians from the Gentile world, “reveal” Jesus to the world as Lord and King. Our celebration today, and then the whole season of Epiphany, offers us the opportunity to consider the revelation of Gods’ own self in Jesus. How do we know Jesus as God? How do we know Jesus as human? How will we know God in our lives and in the world, this year, 2019?
The wise people in our story today knew Jesus had been born king of the Jews, because they knew the stars. They “observed his star at its rising,” and journeyed far to pay him homage. And yet despite their wisdom and knowledge, still they needed to stop and ask for directions. Perhaps they assumed Jesus own people would have already received the revelation that had come to them, strangers to the Jewish community. When they inquired in Jerusalem, the chief priests and scribes knew where the Messiah was to be born because of the prophets of old. For it had been written: “you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah… from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.” The religious leaders knew their scripture, the wisdom and knowledge received from their forebears, and combined with the knowledge of the outsiders, it pointed to a new revelation from God… a new revelation of God. A baby, born a king, would bring salvation to the world, for Jew and Gentile alike. How do we know if it’s true? How will we see, experience, respond to God’s revelation in our lives, in our world, this year, 2019?
Through this Christmas season, I’ve been listening to an audio book read by Br. Curtis Almquist from the Society of St. John the Evangelist. It’s called The Twelve Days of Christmas with each day focusing on a different gift. The second day of Christmas was about “the gift of revelation.” In speaking about the deep knowing of revelation, Br. Curtis observes: “if we were to tabulate in the Bible the amount of scriptural text given over to the reporting of dreams, visions, prophecies, angelic visitations and other indirect references to God’s mysterious, and yet undeniable, leading of people, we would find these phenomena comprise approximately one third of the Bible. These ways of knowing are not insignificant. Yet they are quite counter-cultural for many of us who live in the western world. There are some things we unlearn as we grow into adulthood.”
What a gift we have in these children with us today… Eloise and Finleigh about to baptized in the family of God… [and… other little ones] who remind us, inspire us, teach us, about ways of knowing that we too often unlearn in our formation into adulthood. Somewhere along the way, most of us learned to defer to reason and to claim only that which we can rationally quantify, compute, defend, explain, and adjudicate as the way, and always the best way, to know. It is not that these ways are wrong or bad or untrue. They are essential to certain aspects of our life, but there is also more to life than reason. Children innately know that there are other ways of knowing. “In children,” Br. Curtis says, “we witness this God given capacity to know, to see, to hear, to dream, to realize, to imagine, to play and to understand on many levels.” Many adults have unlearned such deep ways of knowing. How do you know?
The different seasons of the church year encourage us to look for God, to interact with God, to know God, in different ways. This season of Epiphany offers us the chance to seek as the wise men sought, to watch for the revelation of God in new and familiar places, and to see where it takes us. Epiphany reminds us that we will likely be surprised by how God is revealed to us… in the laughter of a child, in a stranger asking for directions, in the silence of a dark night, in the beauty of mountain vista, in the advice of a friend, in our own tears come unbidden, in a still small voice bubbling up from deep within, in a violent wind, in bread and wine transformed into a sacred meal, in a simple bath confirming the everlasting love and unmerited grace of God.
Today we mark the end of the Christmas season with the coming of wise people to Jesus’ cradle-side… how will you know where to go from here?