By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’…[Herod] sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’ After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.” Matthew 2:1-2; 8-11 (NIV)
Have you ever heard the story told that asks the question, “Why did the child throw the clock out the window?” The answer: “To see ‘time fly.’”
That expression “time flies” seems like an understatement. Some of that sense may be because of the continuing emphasis that our society places on speed. We are always seeking ways to do things faster.
However, as we cut down production time, we simply fill the time we save with more tasks. As we accomplish more, we are always seeking more ways to accomplish even more in a never-ending, spiraling cycle that continues to go on and on and never stops.
With the passing of time, I have come to realize that the real basis of life does not consist in how many jobs we get done, how many promotions we accumulate, how much money we save or how many things we possess.
What gives us life is our spiritual witness.
As we lean into Epiphany, the season gives a spark of light in our souls that reminds us that just as everything has an ending, so also do new things come along to engage us.
The year 2021, like 2020, was a year like no other, and the journey continues into 2022. We continue to live in the midst of pandemic, unrest and divisiveness that wreaks havoc on our lives and communities.
Yes, our routines continue to be disrupted and we continue to make adjustments in the way we live our lives and practice our faith. But as Christians, we know that the peace of God that surpasses all understanding has been revealed to us, and it will guard our hearts and minds. As a community of believers, we serve a mighty God who has plans for us, plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us hope and a future.
As a people of faith who profess to be followers, we know that our call is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind and all our strength.
The real task of Epiphany is following.
The Magi rejoiced and followed the star. The Christian life is one of receiving the Epiphany and following. The birth of the Christ child, Jesus, is a reminder that “God is with us.” He is with us however, whenever and wherever we gather, whether virtually or in-person. The challenge of the faith is to see, receive and follow.
Remember, Herod heard the report of the Magi along with the chief priests and scribes. None of them followed. The light continues to shine in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The task of Epiphany is learning to follow.
In a world where people are more interested in being right and proving it, we can miss out on the opportunities to learn, grow and follow. It takes an Epiphany, a revelation of God, for us to see where Epiphany shines.
Are we willing and ready to follow?
“Well, let’s press on the upward way, new heights we gain every day. Still praying as we’re onward bound. Lord, plant our feet on higher ground.”—From the hymn “Higher Ground”