Today, we celebrate Epiphany and the question that needs to be asked is Whose Epiphany?
Epiphany means a revelation. If you have seen the Karate Kid film you will remember the epiphany that the boy had after his extreme frustration with Mr Miyagi. He had been told that he would learn karate and all that he had been doing up until this point was "wax on" and 'wax off" or "paint up" and 'paint down'. (Think of his actions). The kid then blows his top and wonders why Mr Miyagi had not fulfilled his part of the contract and taught him karate. At which point Miyagi punches him saying "Wax on". The punch is of course blocked and there is an epiphanic moment as the kid realises that indeed he has been learning.
So whose Epiphany? Certainly not the wise men (or people) as they already knew who they were looking for - the King of the Jews. They ask after him at the court of Herod. So it can be no epiphany for them they already know. What about Herod? Well I suppose in a way but really he doesn't care except to ensure that there is no threat to him. Like all despots from Pol Pot to Idi Amin and others their only interest is in maintaining power by any means. Slaughter of the innocents is perhaps the best way to ensure that his power stays intact.
Paul had his epiphany on the road to Damascus when have you had yours recently? When have you who celebrate Epiphany in this place have seen God in the flesh incarnate in the people around you, the druggie, the thief, the down and out, the stranger, the migrant?
Who is this? Our Epiphany or an SEP?
God is incarnate in human flesh. Here he is in his mothers arms, he has already experienced the smell of domestic animals and shepherds, in a moment he will be a destitute child in hiding in Egypt, a refugee who will eventually run around barefoot in the village Nazareth, know the stink of the crowds in Jerusalem, and the clean air of a boat on the water. The whole gamut of human experience.
Just maybe if we offered a cup of coffee or hospitality to the man down and out, he would be so relieved because he has nowhere to go and no friend. Perhaps if we offered something for the child to do to keep themselves occupied there would be no need for drugs or to break in to someones home for dun. Instead of looking at the 'expected' or for the 'assumption' we need to be looking for that epiphanic moment when we realise that this is God before us, incarnate in human flesh just waiting for our own interaction, just waiting for an outpouring of love in return for his.
It is only our epiphany if we open our eyes to God's incarnate presence in the lives of those we shy away from. If we cannot or will not open our eyes to God's presence we will miss the Epiphany and our celebration will be empty of meaning. Only when we allow ourselves to be challenged by God in the face of the rejected and despised, to minister and bring God's love into the lives of others around us will we eventually awaken to the new dawn of Christ incarnate and present to us. Can we as we go out from this building form community with those we despise and have that moment of epiphany when we actually realise that God is present to us in the here and now.