Sunday, January 8, 2012

"But I can't see Jesus": A Reflection on the Epiphany

For nearly the last time this Christmas season: Merry Christmas!

Today, of course, is the great celebration of the Epiphany.  The Greek word means "manifestation" or "showing"; in the Eastern part of the Church, the feast is called the Theophany,which means "manifestation of God."  Unfortunately, we often find our communities focusing their attention on "the Three Kings" and miss the larger vision behind it.  Certainly, the story of the magi coming to give homage to the Christ is the heart of the Gospel, but the fact behind the magi is that God has manifested Himself to the entire world in the child Christ.  This was brought home to me this morning at the first Mass of the day by one of the most astute of our parishioners: a little girl sitting with her family.

This morning, our nativity scene near the front of the church was completed with the addition of the figures of the three kings.  After the Opening Collect, as we were all sitting down for the first reading, this brilliant child turned to her mother and said, in a clear voice, "But I can't see Jesus!" Exactly!  The Epiphany is about seeing God in Jesus.

Two things were brought home to me through our young parishioner.

First, what do I/we have to do to help her see God in Jesus?  What would we do, in practical terms?  We could, for example, lift her up so she can "see" better.  What can I do to "see" the Christ better?  Just as I might have to "stretch" to "see better", how must I stretch myself spiritually to see the Christ?  How can I help others to stretch themselves?  At the same time, what is obstructing the view?  How might I be able to remove those obstructions?  It's all about seeing God in Jesus.

Second, God wants to be a part of lives.  God comes to us and is visible to us.  The truly remarkable thing is that the all-powerful, all-loving God could come to us in any number of ways.  God chose to come to us in the most vulnerable way imaginable: as a human child.  Just we find ourselves drawn to this child, we should be finding ourselves drawn to God-With-Us ("Emmanuel" = "God with us").

Finally, we can see this spelled out in the Profession of Faith, the Creed.  Nearly everyone realizes that the English word "creed" comes from the Latin word "credo": "I believe."  However, not as many people know that the word credo itself comes from two other Latin words: cor (heart) and do (I give).  Literally, when we pray the Creed at Mass, we are saying, "I give my heart to Almighty God. . . , I give my heart to Jesus Christ. . . , I give my heart to the Holy Spirit. . . ."  Think of when we might use that expression in our daily lives: it's focus is on the relationship involved.  The Creed, therefore, is not some list of theological propositions that we treat as some kind of "Christian check list".  It is, rather, a cry from the heart about the relationship we put at the heart of who we are: our relationship with God.

"I can't see Jesus": Let's do all we can to remove the obstacles to our relationship with God, to stretch ourselves, and to help others do the same!

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