Epiphany is a wonderful and exciting time of hope. While Advent is full of expectation about the coming birth and the Potential of a Messiah , Epiphany is the next step...it is the time of the liturgical year when we point to the young child that is actually here and dream the dreams of who he will grow up to be and what he might do and how he might do it.
It is interesting to read these scripture selections together trying to think about how they might fit in to today's context. All of them were looking toward how a Messiah, a King, a Saviour might look and act and conduct himself. These were dreams of how he would rule, who he would protect, how he would enter the scene, etc. And when we look at the characteristics they were hoping for, they are not far off from the high expecations we have for our leaders today. Without intending any diminishment to the Messiah or to Boy Souts of America, it is almost like they (and we) were hoping for the ideal Boy Scout - trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.....of course, the Israelites (and we) would also like to add Just, Strong, Brave, Wise, Unfailing, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, and Omniscient.
As you read the passage from Isaiah, you likely recognize that the gospel writers also read (and used parts of) this passage from Isaiah. The writer was speaking to some folks that were living through a dark time themselves. Oppression, confusion, loss of home. And he was dreaming with them that a better day is on the horizon.
Psalm 72 is a beautiful entreaty of God about the hoped-for attributes of their king. There is a hope and dream for the perfect leader.
In this week's selection of Paul's letter to the followers of Jesus in Ephesus he is using he own experience to talk about some of the wonders of the Messiah. Many times prior to this, folks have talked about how a Messiah will bring hope or peace to all the nations, and Paul is giving a concrete example. He talks about how Jesus came not only for the Jews, but also for the Gentiles (i.e. the rest of the world.....for this audience and at the time, folks were either Jews or Gentiles...no third option).
And in the passage from Matthew's gospel we get the classic Epiphany scene. It is the story of the wise men, magi, philosophers, astrologers coming from the east to visit the "King of the Jews". Now there is plenty of political background that is illustrated in this little visit...think about the ramifications of this visit. These were folks that literally followed the universe to Jerusalem and then to Bethelem to find the new King. There was a universal appeal to the hope that was envisioned beneath this star.
Visions of the future are often shaped by present circumstance. We project our hopes on leaders and events and opportunities. But we (not just leaders and events and opportunties) probably play an important role in how visions are fulfilled as well. As people of God, we recognize that we do not fulfill visions alone...we recognize that we cannot completely change the world...but we can change the future in community, listening for God. And the vision of hope cast 2000 years ago still takes shape (or falls apart) in the wake of our actions. Hope expressed accomplishes far less than hope enacted.
We have asked a version of this question a lot in the last few weeks, and it still seems important. What were these folks hoping for and expecting of a Messiah? What are we hoping for and expecting from how God is present in our lives today? And how do we act on our hope and bring light into the world?
Seed us with hope
and empower us to be
for the birth
of your Kingdom.
© matt & laura norvell 2009 www.settingourstones.org
we want to share this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be with you.