January 7th – 8th 2012, 6.30 pm St James Sebastopol, 10.30am & 5.00 pm Cathedral
In a recent clear night sky my eyes were opened to the wonder of both star gazing and technology and the mystery of them both, when a friend opened their ipad and downloaded an app that enabled them to hold their ipad to the stars and have identified the stars, planets and galaxies that they were looking at. While it did feel like something out of a Michael Leunig cartoon with the real thing surrounding us in all its wonder and complexity it did provide a new appreciation by being able to know a little more about that which we looking at.
Star gazers, seekers, risk takers and outsiders who come from afar, lead our procession of those who down the ages will be drawn from all the nations and guided by God to the mystery that is revealed in Christ. This great feast of the epiphany can unsettle us, and like King Herod, it can disturb us and challenge us in our way of being the Church, the community of believers, the Body of Christ, Temple of the Holy Spirit and Pilgrim People of God.
In T.S. Elliot’s “Journey of the Magi” the three travellers reflect after their long and hard journey on where they had been led and what they had experienced. They agree that it was certainly a birth that they witnessed, but their intuition also tells them that there was also death lurking in the shadows: death of their own certainties and gods, and death that would be hard and bitter for the child whom they had knelt to worship and offer their gifts.
This past year has been noted by some as a year for toppling tyrants, when some of the Herods of our own day came to bitter and bloody endings, from Gaddafi in Libya, Tunisia’s Ben Ali, Eygpt’s Hosni Mubarek and more recently the death of North Korea’s Kim Jong Il. For those tired of hypocrisy and disillusioned about political power mongering we might see in this Feast of the Epiphany that against the crushing presence of power is pitted the liberating power of presence. That's the feast of the Epiphany. That's the presence we seek, Christ the liberating power, his liberating mission of the reign of God that us to reveal this to make it known and real for all people. Today’s Christmas Feast is a feast of gospel reversals.
Almost 50 years ago at the second Vatican Council, in its document on the Church, called Lumen Gentium, the mystery of the Church was described firstly through Christ, the light of humanity with the Church called to be the sacrament, the sign and instrument image of, with a universal mission, not to seek any earthly glory, but the Council says, “through her own example, humility and self-denial,” “we are to be like a stranger in a foreign land pressing forward.”
So we might wonder about own following of Christ, what we are willing to let go of to follow, to identify what we are willing to seek, to pursue and become passionate for? We might also consider our Church and the services and agencies that bear our Catholic name and its associated identity and mission – if its light is sought from afar and if its outreach extends beyond the boundaries of race and nation? Perhaps this feast that breaks open the scope of God’s revelation that reaches to all people of all time so that all people may know the saving power of God from star gazers, seekers, risk takers and outsiders.
Commencing a new year in the light of the feast of the Epiphany we may pray:
We believe that God is present in the darkness before the dawn
In the waiting and uncertainty where fear and courage join hands
conflict and caring link arms
and the sun rises over barred windows.
We believe in a with-us-God who sits down in our midst
to share our humanity
We affirm a faith
that takes us beyond the safe place:
into action, into vulnerability.
We commit ourselves to work for change
and put ourselves on the line;
to bear responsibility, take risks,
live powerfully and face humiliation;
to stand with those on the edge;
to choose life
and be used by the Spirit
for God's new community of hope.