O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the Gentiles; Mercifully grant, that we, which know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
THE EPISTLE Ephesians 3: 1-12
FOR this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy Apostles and Prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ, by the Gospel: whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.
THE GOSPEL St Matthew 2: 1-12
WHEN Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the East, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
Christmas can be a wonderful time of year. I am from the city of St. Augustine and every year there is a festival of lights. You can go and see many beautifully lit houses. At some of these houses, you can see nativities. These nativities have the entire Holy Family and the Magi, or wise men. This event would not happen at Christmas, but rather the Wise Men would come days later at a feast day that we call the Feast of the Epiphany.
What is the Epiphany? It comes from two Greek words that roughly translate to the revelation or as the prayerbook says, “The manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.” We celebrate that Christ came into the world and the light was made known to all peoples. In both the Epistle and the Gospel, we see that the Light compels us whether we want to receive it or not.
We look to the story of St. Paul, or Saul as he was known before his conversion. He was a rabbinical student under the instruction of Gamaliel, a very famous rabbi. Rabbi Gamaliel has a scene in the book of Acts when he reminds the Sanhedrin that they should be careful before convicting the Apostles. St. Paul was a great enemy of the Church. He fought against Christ and persecuted the Apostles. He stood at the martyrdom of St. Stephen. He fought against the Light, but would be blinded by that Light on the Road to Damascus when Jesus would appear to him as the True Light. Saul did not want to be St. Paul, but the Light changed his very life. This is what the Light does to all believers. It causes us to know our sin and beings us to repentance.
In the Gospel, we see the magi. We do not know much about these wise men but we do know that they studied the creation and could reason that something was happening and followed it there. The magi could not help but see that Jesus was the Light. The creation told the story of the handiwork of God. We see evidence of course of the Anglican concept of Faith, Tradition, and Reason. All three of these are at work in the Revelation of Christ. Reason has been a part of our tradition and we do not think that the two are independent. Reason is not enough for salvation, but it can point us in the right direction. General Revelation points to the Special Revelation of Christ. It points us to the Light, but it is not that Light.
During the Feast of the Epiphany, we should be thinking about the Revelation of God in our world. Does God only reveal Himself to us through the usual means of Grace? Can He show up in ways and show His glory in ways that we did not think possible? The answer to both of these questions should be: yes. I would like us to pray about showing the Revelation of His glory not only in our parishes, but in our lives. Our places of work, our time with friends, our relationship with our families. Discipleship is where it all begins. If we reach people as God does through nontypical methods, what could be the result? Maybe we can show the Light to a future priest of the Church? Maybe, we show it to someone who needs to hear it to come to faith? It is our job to show the Light, and the Light will do the rest. Let us preach the Gospel, then and only then use words!
Fr. Brandon Cribbs