Audio here: .
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Arise, shine, for your Light has come, and the glory of Yahweh has risen over you! This is the shining Word of God not only in the darkness of winter, but in the darkness of these latter days. “Epiphany” is literally “to shine upon” something, to illuminate it. And that means that there is something that is doing the illuminating. There is a Light that is shining, and there is something being shined upon. We know the Light. The Light was in the beginning, and from Him was spoken into existence light in the creation. The Light is the Word who was in the beginning, who was with God, and who was God. That God is the one who took on flesh in order that we might see and see God. The Light entered the world that had been shrouded in darkness.
Now, if you’re in a dark room and someone turns on the light, or if you’re outside at dawn, there’s no question that the light is turned on or that the sun rises. You couldn’t see before, but now you can. Inside, the items in the room become visible. Outside, the trees and the geography take shape. And if you need the light to see, you welcome the day. If you’re in a place like Tromsø, Norway, for example, where the sun doesn’t rise from November to January, you’d be especially glad to see the sun!
Those “epiphanies” are obvious to our eyes. But what if you’re blind or your eyes are shut or there’s something dark covering your eyes. The light might be shining, but you don’t know it. And no matter what it illumines, you can’t see it. Something like that is what happened at the epiphany of our Lord: the Light shines in the darkness but those living in darkness flee from the Light. They neither see God there, nor want Him. They live by their own lights.
Jesus says, the eye is the lamp of the body (Matthew 6:22). We tend to think of sight as things entering our eyes, coming in from the outside. But they thought of our eyes sort of like flashlights that shine on things outside and so we see them. In other words, we think of the light as coming in from the outside; they thought of light as going out from the inside. So if the eye is the lamp of the body and the lamp is darkness because of evil, how great is the darkness! You can’t see anything because your lamp is out.
Epiphany isn’t just a matter of light shining in the darkness and then it’s obvious to everyone. It is a matter of revelation. This light has to be revealed to you as light, or else the darkness in you will believe that you are light and that the Light of the world is darkness. And how does this Light choose to be revealed? In a manger in a small town in Judea. In flesh and blood that doesn’t look any different from the flesh and blood of those around Him. In a childhood that is so like that of the children around Him that stories had to be invented about Him as a child in order to make it more interesting.
He is revealed only to faith. Only faith sees that the King of the Jews and of all creation is born in Bethlehem, not Jerusalem. Only faith sees that the child is worthy of worship. Only faith sees the Holy Trinity present at the Jordan River when He is baptized. Only faith sees the beginning of a new creation when He changes all those gallons of water for ritual cleansing to the unlimited wine of rejoicing. Only faith sees God in the flesh promising the renewal of all things when He heals the sick, casts out demons, and raises the dead. Only new eyes, enlightened by the Light of the world, can see.
And new eyes, it turns out, come by hearing. Paul preaches in order to open eyes. Though he was, he says, the least of all the saints, God gave him the grace to preach the fathomless riches of Jesus, the King of the Jews, to the Gentiles. The fact that the King of the Jews was also for everyone else was a mystery hidden from eternity. This isn’t the sort of mystery that you figure out by putting all the pieces together and solving it. This is the sort of mystery that is revealed by God. He reveals it in His own time, within His own creation. And when Jesus appears, the mystery is revealed with Him. It’s revealed by preaching that this Jesus is for you. The Jesus who appeared as the savior of the shepherds, descended from Israel, is the same Jesus who appeared as savior of the magi, who were not. The true Light who enlightens all people has come into the world (John 1:9).
Arise, shine! Your Light has come! The glory of Yahweh has risen upon you! He became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen His glory, the glory of the only-begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Arise, like Jesus said to the little girl who was dead, but then she wasn’t dead anymore (Mark 5:41). The eyes of your heart have been given light to see, because you were washed like Paul, and given the Holy Spirit like Paul, and the scales have fallen from your eyes like they did from his. He saw then that Jesus, the crucified one, was the Son of God and the resurrected Lord of glory. And then he ate, like the baptized eat: the blessed food of Christ’s flesh and blood, that strengthens unto eternal life (Acts 9:17-19).
And when you are done eating, you pray the thanksgiving prayer of Simeon: Now I can go in peace, according to Your Word, O Lord, because my own eyes have seen Your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all the nations. In the open, before every eye, Jesus is born, suffers, dies, rises, ascends, is proclaimed, given, eaten and drunk. And the eyes of faith see Him, who is a Light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Your people Israel (Luke 2:29-32). The Light has come, and the glory of God, the sun of righteousness risen with healing in His wings (Malachi 3:22).
The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overpower or defeat it, no matter how dark things appear. In the dark days of this world, and in the dark days of your life, the Light still shines. He is here and you have eyes opened to see Him, hear Him, receive Him, and be fed by Him.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 1/2/20