A sermon preached at Croydon Minster for the feast of the Epiphany.
‘Lift up your eyes and look around…then shall you see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice…’
(cf Isaiah 60.4)
The scene is complete.
Shepherds and Magi have been drawn together called by angels, led by a star and now adore.
They are safely in our crib, and we place ourselves - with them - before the manger throne of Christ in wonder and adoration, for God is made known in human flesh and we have seen his glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
The door of the Bethlehem stable, the door of this tabernacle, has opened to those who were not on the inside before, shepherds and Magi, you and me.
The shepherds represent those who not highly regarded but necessary to society all the same. They are part of the people of Israel, but on its fringes. They’re on the outside of the ‘in-crowd’.
The Magi represent people from all the nations, they have the allure of wealth and mystique, they are spiritual searchers. They’re on the inside of the outsiders!
Both, in their own way, transgress the boundaries of access to the God of Israel, just as God in Christ has taken our humanity so that we can cross into divinity.
That is the revelation, the manifestation, this is what the Epiphany is – Christ is made known to all people: Jew and Gentile; insider and outsider; near and far; familiar and stranger.
Up until the Epiphany the movement has been inwards, or centripetal, the presence of Christ attracting, drawing, sucking people in towards himself.
From now on Christ will be revealed in an outward movement, a centrifugal movement.
In his Baptism in the River Jordan, at the hands of John, there will be an epiphany; in the wedding feast at Cana he will be made known in the miraculous revelation of transforming love: an epiphany.
Mary, the Virgin Mother, is the thread that connects this inward/outward movement to Christ.
The star leads us, and the angels call us, in to adore ‘the child cradled on his mother’s lap’ (cf Matthew 2.11).
And then John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary point out to us who Jesus Christ is, out and about. As John puts it, ‘Behold, look, feast your eyes, this is the Lamb of God’. And Mary his Mother says, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’
We live this life too.
We are drawn in to this holy place with ‘angels and archangels and all the company of heaven’ to see, to taste, Christ the Bread of Life, to worship and adore, to offer ourselves, our souls and bodies to be a living sacrifice to him.
And we go out to recognise him in the world he created and which he comes to renew, refresh and transform.
The mystery is unveiled to us, as it was to St Paul, so that with him we might ‘perceive the mystery of Christ’ (Ephesians 3.4)
Epiphany is about God’s initiative to make himself known - within the temple and in his world – and for us to recognise the Mystery and adore, wherever we encounter him, as Isaiah says, ‘lift up your eyes and look around…then shall you see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice…’ (cf Isaiah 60.4)