Order of service with hymns and Bible readings here
Link to the audio of my sermon (with a prayer and reading before from Fr Simon) here
I wonder if it actually happened like we’ve just heard in our Gospel reading, if there ever was a real-live nativity scene, if there was a star and shepherds and wise men. Either way it doesn’t really matter, whether it is a literal story or a parabolic one the point is the significance of what it says to us, what the message of this is. Rather than facts we should concern ourselves more with what the truth, what the meaning of this story is for us.
Today is the day we call the beginning of the season of Epiphany. An epiphany is a sudden and striking realisation, a revelation, a stunning manifestation of some truth. Today our Gospel reading speaks to us of the wise men, and their epiphany. But I also want to think of our own. Our own special moments, our own personal epiphanies.
A moment that stopped you in your tracks and made you think, made you re-evaluate life. Maybe it was when someone looked you right in the eye and told you that you were beautiful, maybe it was the time you could look in the mirror and say the same to yourself, believing it. Maybe it was the time you played the piano for the first time or sang with a choir or painted or had your first day in a new job and found a passion for it. Maybe it was the time your partner smiled at you, maybe it was the time you found a new home like I found this home, and you knew it was going to be ok. Maybe it was the time you held a child in your arms, a beautiful new-born baby, completely dependent, harmless, vulnerable, perfect. Like the baby Jesus.
None of these moments can happen without a degree of personal vulnerability and openness. Jesus came into the world a child not a king in a palace. Today our day of Epiphany in the Church remembers the wise men that thought they knew so much, but were completely changed by the humility and vulnerability of an experience that healed their souls.
As our season of Epiphany begins, as the new year starts, it’s time to think a bit more about resolutions and revelations.
Think more about where you really see God and help that grow. We’re Christians all the time not just in church on a Sunday morning and there’s a whole world out there. A boy called Tom when he was 15 couldn’t find God, didn’t understand Jesus in the context of his church service. It just wasn’t his style, wasn’t what he was looking for. But then he went camping and for the first time he saw the sunrise and said, ‘wow’. He found a great love for nature and he found God in it. A month ago I stood on a hill in Wales at nighttime and I saw the brightest stars I’ve ever seen in my life and I too said ‘wow’. In countryside not at all obscured by streetlights I learnt the true meaning of the word ‘shine’. We need more ‘wow’ moments, more epiphanies, we need to be open to always keep growing wherever we are whatever age we are.
And we need to remember to see God more in each other too. Not just our relatives but all our brothers and sisters. When I went to Salisbury two summers ago I spent some time with a homeless man called Duncan who quoted from a song called ‘Awake My Soul’: “where you invest your love you invest your life”. A lovely man. Where you invest your love you invest your life. Where your treasure is there may your heart be also.
If there’s something you really want to do, maybe you really want to paint more or you really want to cut your hair off but you’re worried that some people won’t like it… whatever it is you really want to do – as long as it isn’t going to hurt anyone – do it. Because you should live life to the full every day, and you deserve to give yourselves gifts this year as well as giving gifts to others. Love yourself.
But do remember others too. It’s a new year and people all over the world are making resolutions. Why not make one to help out a homeless shelter or even a charity shop in the village, spend more time talking with people that are different to you and learning that everyone is beautiful in different ways. Difference is not something we should fear, we should be striving for unity. Respect the Buddhist, the Hindu, the Muslim don’t judge them because they have a different religion… don’t judge the man that wants to marry a man because he loves him… don’t judge the homeless man and think it’s his own fault for not finding a job because maybe his parents died and he was left completely alone believing that nobody cared. He’s your brother, your brother, and you should help him.
Change the story of today and be the one that opens the door to a Mary and a Joseph – she’s pregnant and they aren’t married and maybe your neighbours are going to judge you for it but open the door because she’s your sister and she needs your help.
When Jesus grew up he was willing to die for his vision of love and peace. What are you willing to do? Will you make sure you spend some time this year giving out bread and fish, loving yourself and loving your neighbour?
Maggi Dawn wrote in her book ‘Beginning and Endings’:
Let’s be sure we don’t just close the book on Christmas for another year. If we ponder these things in our hearts throughout the year and throughout our lives, we will give ourselves the chance to discover how to make the love, peace, goodwill and childlike wonder of Christmas a reality in our own lives, in our families, in our communities, and in our world.
May it be so. Did you have any kind of epiphany this Christmas? Was there any stunning moment that stopped you in your tracks? Or do you need to change things a bit this year? The Lord be with you…