My wife loves the Antiques Roadshow. You know the program on PBS where people bring in their old antiques and get experts to appraise them. Sometimes the appraised value of the object is about what you would expect. Sometimes it is less than you might think. Occasionally it is far more than you would ever imagine. I recall seeing a show once where an old table lamp someone had in their attic for years turned out to be a Tiffany worth thousands of dollars. The owner who had never suspected its hidden value burst into tears at the good news of their unexpected fortune. Every show has a few such happy stories and I think that’s why Kathy enjoys it so much. She truly enjoys a show that has so many pleasant surprises in it for both the participants and the viewers. Those little “epiphanies,” those little moments of discovery, where a person realizes a blessing they didn’t expect to find, or encounters a piece of good fortune that they never believed possible, have a way of leaving you feeling good inside long after the show is over.
This weekend, Christians celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany of our Lord Jesus Christ on January 6. The word "Epiphany" is a Greek work that means "manifestation" or "showing forth" and the Epiphany that we mark is a much different one from anything you might see on the Antiques Roadshow. For we celebrate the Epiphany of Jesus to the Wise Men from afar who had journeyed long and hard to Bethlehem to see the new-born Messiah (Matthew 2:1-12) asking the question, "Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and have come to worship him." Surprisingly, that newborn king, the very Son of God, came as a tiny child, born to simple parents, in a stable at Bethlehem. Who would have ever imagined that the very presence of the eternal God could have come in such a surprising way?
Have you ever had an epiphany ... about anything? In a lesser sense, an epiphany can refer to any time when you discover a great truth or come to a profound realization about something. Have you ever had an instant when you recognized something very important in the midst of your own life? An epiphany can be that moment when you suddenly realize how much you love somebody and want to be with them. An epiphany can be that moment when you finally decide what it is you want to do in life and then dedicate yourself to it. An epiphany can be that moment when you finally come to terms with something troubling you from your past and let go of it forever. An epiphany can be that moment when you realize the limitations of your own strength and your profound need for God. Epiphanies can be small or they can be large, they can be fairly gentle or they can be earthshaking, but they always have a way of changing you.
We live in a world where many have lost their sense of the holy. We live in a world where many have lost their awareness of God’s presence. Shopping malls and arenas have replaced churches as centers of community life and interaction. Hollywood personalities and motivational speakers have replaced religious leaders as teachers of moral and ethical values. Popular psychology and notions of individualism have even replaced the authority of the Holy Gospel as the source of core beliefs for many Christians. Endless self-expression has become the highest good for some.
And yet, despite all of this, there is still a profound hunger in our world to be connected to the holy ... to be connected to God ... and to believe. I still see that hunger for the holy every time a couple brings a baby for the sacrament of Holy Baptism, a sacrament in which that tiny life is united to the life of Christ forever. I see the hunger for the holy every time I stand in front of a family for the Office of Christian Burial as they commit a loved one into God's gracious keeping forever. I see the hunger for the holy in the eyes and the faces of so many who have not yet found their truth in this world and are still searching.
Not long ago I encountered a person who told me that he had problems with the church because it never ever lived up to the requirements of the Gospel. He didn't quite know how to respond when I agreed with him and told him that I felt the same. And then I challenged him to see beyond the church and all of its imperfections to the One who calls the church and all who belong to it to be perfect – Christ our Lord. I don't know if my response made a difference in the life of that man. But I do think it made a difference to me. For it affirmed for me the importance of seeking Christ and discovering Christ even if His church sometimes stumbles in its task
The Feast of the Epiphany reminds us that God is present in this world. It reminds us that that presence can sometimes be a blinding light as it was for Moses at the Burning Bush, or it can be the innocent Child of God in a manger as it was for the Magi. You can discover God in the most surprising of places.
May you have an epiphany this week. May you have an encounter with God when you least expect it so that the light of his glory shines in a new way in the midst of your life.