Tuesday, January 26, 2010

An Epiphany Meditation

"Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling
Lead thou me on;
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
Lead thou me on!
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for
        --John Henry Newman

Most of us Baptists discovered Epiphany late. We knew about Advent, of course and Lent and Easter. But Epiphany? What was that? Digging around in my books I learned the word in the Greek means manifestation. For the Eastern Church Epiphany was older than Christmas in celebration. By the Fourth century the three great festivals of the Church were: Epiphany, Easter and Pentecost. In Rome it was linked to the coming of the Magi bringing gifts to the manger. It is also a reminder that the Magi were non-Jews and that Christ came for them, too. Out of this understanding Epiphany came to mean missions for some. But the central meaning of the word is light. Like the star the Shepherds first saw and then the Wise Men. John would interpret this to mean:"the light has come into the world and the darkness cannot put it out." Even though Epiphany began right after Christmas--it is a wonderful time to meditate on the wonder of God's great light.  I thought about the season of Epiphany as I wrote the lines that follow.          

I read somewhere on the ship that sunrise came at 4:22 or some ungodly hour. I never get up this early—seems like the middle of the night. Consequently, I had never seen the sun rise. Yet I crawled out of bed in the darkness—careful not to wake my wife. I slipped on my sweats and grabbed my camera. Everything was quiet on the top deck. The old ship rocked along. Most of the 3,000 of the passengers must have been asleep. Not a person in sight. I looked up at the blinking stars waiting in the silence and the dark. Just waited. On the far horizon in the East I saw what I thought was a slither of light. Slowly, ever so slowly that old yellow thing began its upward climb. Across the dark water came ripples of light. The blue-black water was changing color. And slowly the sun crept over the horizon. It was a new day—opening alike a present before my very eyes. The tall white ship rocked. It was now covered in light. Far below people began to stir. The old book is right. “From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the Lord is to be praised.” (Psalm 113. 3) Thank God for the light.

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