Minnesota Episcopal
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Episcopal Church in Minnesota
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Lectionary Reflection

The Epiphany, All Years
Revised Common Lectionary


Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures): Isaiah 60:1-6

New Testament: Ephesians 3:1-12
Psalm: 72:1-7,10-14 Gospel: Matthew 2:1-12

by the Rev Tom Harries

Satellite picture looking down from space and seeing North Korea at night and how dark it is

  • It was Similarly dark at night through most of history.
  • Imagine having only a few oil lamps and candles to illumine your home when darkness fell by 4:30 PM and stayed until 7:30 AM. Roads were entirely unlit as they snaked through dark forest from town to town.
  • Light coming into the world was an even more powerful symbol in those days.

In this morning's gospel light in the form of a star reveals the newborn Jesus to the wise men.

  • Light reveals God to us.
  • At Jesus' birth, by showing the wise men where to find him, and lighting their way,

But also more generally.

  • Light waves zipping across the universe reveal God's creation to us. Some of the light waves hail from the very beginning of time, and so they are able to tell us the whole story of God's glorious creation, at least from the big bang, or bounce, or whatever it was, until today.

As human beings, Sight is our best sense.

  • Most other creatures devote more resources to hearing or smell, particularly smell.
  • Sharks have an exquisite sensitivity to electrical charges given off by other creatures.
  • We devote more of our neurons to sight.

Sight is better over longer distances, because light travels in a straight line.

  • Except when it doesn't. I can be bounced or scattered. It's path can be bent by the gravity of extremely heavy objects.
  • But most of the time, on the scales that matter to us daily, light carries the most information over the longest distance at the highest speed, making it the most valuable wave for us to sense.
  • Sound waves tend to diminish rapidly.

Light travels much much further than any other wave we can detect, which is what makes it the basis of astronomy.

  • Sound requires particles, air, water, something in which it's waves can propagate. Sound doesn't carry at all in a vacuum.
  • Smell could theoretically get across the universe but it would take a very long time because actual atoms or molecules would have to move from the source to the nose.

ñ Christ is revealed by the light of the star

  • God is revealed by that particular light in Matthew.
  • But also God's universe is revealed to us by light, which enables us to see it.

The gospel of John adds that Christ is the light of the world.

  • Not only does the light reveal Christ to us, but Christ reveals the world to us.
  • Christ is the light by which we see the world

That means we see the world in a particular way.

  • Like the difference between sight and sound or smell.
  • If we were Buddhist perhaps we would see the world in a way more analogous to sound.
  • We view the world primarily through a certain sense, and that sense is Jesus Christ.
  • We probably also miss what Christ does not reveal.
  • Just as we might learn some things through hearing that we cannot learn through sight, or learn as easily through sight. Or that are not so readily available to us through site.
  • In the same way we might learn from Buddhism or Islam or Judaism some things about the world, or some things about God, which are true, but are not as apparent when viewed through the lens we use most of the time.

On the other hand, we consider that the light of Christ is the best sense to use for the fullest understanding of God and the world.

Light is a terrific metaphor for the presence of God in the world and in our lives.

  • Light can be either a wave or a particle.
  • We might think of Jesus as the particle aspect. Jesus was among us as a particular material person.
  • material, incarnate.
  • Holy Spirit could be thought of as the wave aspect of light, less material, but still real, still able to have an impact.

Light is wonderful stuff

  • It can be incisive, like be a laser. In that form it can be used for cutting, for laser surgery.
  • But also for communication pulses in fiber optic cable.

Broad spectrum, sunlight warms us.

  • Warms the world of course. Without it we'd be living, or rather not living, on a cold dead rock.

Light also provides all the energy that plants transform into food;

  • With so much left over it provides all our wind energy, hydro electric power,
  • takes care of watering most of the plants including, still, most of the crops in the world.
Printable version


To Reflections on individual RCL Readings for the Feast of the Epiphany:

Reflections available at the active links
Old Testament (Hebrew Scripture) Reading:
Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm 72: 1-7, 10-14
New Testament Reading
Ephesians 3:1-12


The Rev Tom Harries was co-chair of MEESC, rector at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion, St. Peter, MN, and Total Ministry mentor in Marshall, MN, when he delivered this sermon on the Feast of the Epiphany, 2012. Tom and we welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to the Rev Tom Harries or any MEESC member, or mail them to:

c/o C. Morello
4451 Lakeside Drive
Eveleth, MN 55743-4400 USA

The MEESC assumes that all correspondence received is for publication on this web site. If your comments are not for publication, please so note on your correspondence. The MEESC reserves the right to decide which items are included on the website.


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