Homily for 8:00 Service of Sunday, January 8th, 2012 || The Epiphany || Matthew 2: 1-12 ||
The Rev. Margot D. Critchfield
“In the bleak mid-winter, frosty wind made moan. Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone…” So starts one of the most poignant hymns of the Church, based on Christina Rossetti’s remarkable love song to the baby Jesus.
And into this bleak mid-winter bursts one very bright, one very powerful star, illuminating the cold night sky and the lives of all those who follow it. Oh, how I love that star! I love its promise of hope. I love its warmth. I love the way it mysteriously touches some unidentifiable spot within me and makes my heart say, “Yes! I’d follow you anywhere.” And I like to think I would. I figure it’s never misled me yet: It led me here.
I believe that star led each of you here, too. And I wonder what shape or form it took in your life, how it got your attention, and why you decided to follow it. Maybe the Light that led you to this place disguised itself—perhaps in a friend or a family member, a “holy coincidence,” a sense of obligation, or a gnawing hunger for some sort of spiritual food you couldn’t quite name…
No matter. It was the star. It was that breathtaking Light that shines in the darkness that the darkness cannot overcome. It was God’s in-breaking presence in our world—God’s in-breaking presence in your world, saying, “Look, here I am and I’m real. Won’t you follow me?”
And finally you did. Maybe tentatively, maybe begrudgingly, maybe even full speed ahead. But you followed, and here you are, still seeking, still following that star, still responding to it’s irresistible call…in the warmth of this place, in the presence of its Light, moving ever closer to the One toward whom it is leading you.
This, my friends, is the Epiphany. Not some grand revelatory, “Aha!” –but the sometimes steady and often faltering commitment we make to the spiritual journey: It’s our decision to follow that star. It’s our “yes” to God’s invitation in our lives.
You know, the wise men weren’t especially bright or well educated—and they certainly weren’t kings. They were itinerant pseudo-astrologers more akin to new-age gypsies than learned sages. But they were seekers—seekers committed to the journey—and though they were wise enough to follow the star, even they got fooled by preconceived ideas about where it would lead: Maybe you noticed that they took a very sensible, but misguided, detour to Jerusalem before letting the clear and consistent Light of the star lead them to Bethlehem.
Yet they got there. They got there just as each of us got here. Then filled with joy they fell to their knees and worshipped the newborn Jesus in gratitude and awe. And when they left that place, they were ever so different from when they came. When they left that place they had a Light in their hearts that the darkness could not overcome, they had a hope for the future that couldn’t be extinguished, and they had an astonishing story to tell about a very bright, very powerful star that illumined the cold dark sky one bleak mid-winter night, and how it mysteriously touched some unidentifiable spot in their hearts that made them say, “Yes! I’ll follow you anywhere.”
Each of us has our own story to tell about the star that led us here, and the misguided detours we’ve made along the way. Each of us has our own story to tell about how different we are now than when we first came to this wonder-filled place…about how different we are when we leave here each week than when we came…because we leave with light and hope and our commitment to the journey renewed by Christ’s presence.
And I wonder how we might share those stories with the itinerant seekers out there who have lost their way to Bethlehem after one too many detours…or who are so tired that they’ve given up searching, or who simply haven’t noticed the brilliance of the star shining right here in Cohasset on the bell tower of St Stephen’s Church and in each of us.
Because maybe they don’t know yet that, “In the bleak mid-winter, frosty wind made moan. Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone…” and that into this bleak mid-winter, bursts one very bright, one very powerful star, illuminating the cold night sky and the lives of all who choose to follow it, even now.
And so I pray: May God bless us each with opportunities to be that star for the seekers, the doubters, and the lost all around us. And may we share the Light of our own Epiphany journeys with gratitude and awe. Amen.