(Given at Upavon on the Third Sunday
after the Epiphany, January 20th, 2002.)
A few years ago I had conducted a service at a certain Church in this
Epiphany season. At the door afterwards, someone said to me, "No-one has
ever told me what 'Epiphany' means." Well, sometimes we clergy do take too
much for granted. So at the risk of boring those of you who know all about
it, let's refresh our memories.
"Epiphany" is, of course, a Greek word. The "Phany" bit means a torch or
a lantern. Stick the "Epi" bit in front of it and you get the idea of the
light from a torch being brought to bear on some specific thing. If you take
a torch to see what's in the cellar or the attic, you are doing an Epiphany.
When Isaiah the prophet looked forward to a coming Messiah, he thought of
him as one who shone a light on God so that we could see him more clearly.
"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light" he said.
"Break with thine iron rod, the tyranny of sin". A better knowledge of
God means a release from the burden of sin.
"MANIFESTATION". The Book of Common Prayer heading is "The Epiphany, or
the Manifestation of Christ".
This time it's a couple of Latin words which together mean a "slapping
across the hand".
Show the merits of something. "Look, this is the Jesus we talk about.
This is the promised Messiah. See how good he is. See how he shines a light
on God the Father so that we can see something of what our God is really
like. See how much better he is than any of us. See him as somebody special.
Isaiah and the other prophets, up to John the Baptist had been telling
people what to expect, but they had nothing to SHOW. When Jesus came, there
was something to see. See how his teaching contrasts with the world's
standards - don't you think this is teaching worth noticing and then
Let's see what happened when the light was shone upon God, let's find out
what happened when HE was "slapped across the hand".
Yes, people responded to the light, they responded to the offer, they
responded to the good news by following the One who had the light to shine
upon God and to reveal his nature.
It is our response, as people who have been called by him, to reflect
that light so that it shines in the world around us. We show our loyalty to
that call, and our willingness to reflect his light as we affirm our faith
in the words of the creed.
The star that led wise men to Jesus symbolises the Epiphany - the Torch
pointing to Christ, by which we are all led, and when we arrive, we are led
to worship, and to offer - our selves, our souls and bodies, to be a living
sacrifice to him whom we worship.
© The Estate of William John Green, 2004