Worship: Hoping for an epiphany

Living and thinking in a whole new way in 2016

Sometimes more than others, we need a new year. We need a new start and a new direction. We need a light to shine in the darkness.

That’s how I was feeling as the last days passed of 2015, which will long be remembered for the fear they left on our collective psyche.

On Nov. 14, terrorists killed 130 in Paris, injuring hundreds more. The day before, a double-suicide in Beirut killed 43 and wounded 239 others. Just a few days before that, the Egyptian affiliate of ISIS claimed responsibility for the Russian plane crash that killed 217. And last month, a suburban couple in San Bernardino, Calif. entered a holiday party and murdered 14 and wounded 21, having pledged their loyalty to ISIS.

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The news has instilled fear in the hearts of many who cannot fathom such brutality. It’s left people wondering if they are safe in shopping malls, theaters and sporting events. It’s as if our eyes have been opened, and we see things in a new way.

So I find myself longing to see some light and hope in 2016.

The gospel writer Matthew tells of wise men from foreign lands who followed a star in search of a king. The Christian church celebrates their arrival at the Bethlehem stable on Jan. 6, a day we call “Epiphany.” It represents the realization that Jesus was born not just for the Jews, but for all peoples of the world.

Epiphany is more than a festival day. Webster’s defines epiphany as a “sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something.” James Joyce wrote that epiphanies are “the most delicate and evanescent of moments.” Maya Angelou described them as “the occurrence when the mind, the body, the heart, and the soul focus together and see an old thing in a new way.”

The world of the wise men was full of fear. En route to see Jesus, they stopped by the king’s palace and were asked to return and give the baby’s location, so Herod too could worship. But his heart intended murder. The wise men were warned in a dream to not go back, so they traveled home by another way. Herod in turn killed all males under 2 years old to finish the child-king, but Jesus escaped with his parents to Egypt.

I couldn’t help but think of ISIS when I read again this year about Herod and the baby boys, as ISIS has killed so many children in Iraq and other states.

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In the face of such fear, still the wise men bowed. Still they followed the light, attracted to the center of a divine plan. Still they offered gifts to recognize the child’s identity, love incarnate.

Epiphany is more than revelation. It means taking a different path, because the old paths are insufficient. I believe that a greater epiphany exists than the wake-up call of 2015. We can walk in light and take a different path. 2016 can be different.

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