In two days on January 6 we will celebrate Epiphany Day. The timing is perfect. I have the “crud” again; the whirling dervishes of church stuff are more than taxing; and I can’t get my daughter Narcie and her brain tumor off my mind. The doctor said things haven’t changed since the last MRI but he seemed more ominous this time. His line is on a continual loop in my mind, “It’s not a matter of if the tumor will come back, but when.” That is so scary.
I confess a personal need for God to “show up.” I am well aware that throughout Epiphany season our worship focuses on God’s power and miracles. We need epiphanies in this dark world. By definition, an epiphany is a sudden burst of clarity, a sign from God that He is real. What a difference this can make in our deep winter despair.
But, oh, how we often miss the divine that is right in front of us! At a recent Columbia District Clergy Meeting one of our colleagues shared a humorous story about missing the obvious. It was a story about Sherlock Holmes, master detective, and Dr. Watson, his faithful companion. It seems they were camping when suddenly in the middle of the night Holmes awakened Dr. Watson and said, “Watson, look up and tell me what you deduce from what you see.”
Dr. Watson replied to Sherlock that he saw stars, thereby deducing that there were millions of stars overhead. Watson further deduced that with all these stars there might be some stars, like our sun, that have planets around them. Watson further said that he could deduce that perhaps some of these planets may resemble earth. Therefore, he told Sherlock Holmes that his final deduction was that there must be life on other planets besides the earth. He declared, “There you have it, Mr. Holmes!” Sherlock Holmes stared at Watson dumbfounded at how he could miss the obvious: “No, Dr. Watson, you don’t have it at all! The only clear deduction is that someone has stolen our tent!”
Epiphany begins with a heavenly sign, a star that clearly led the Magi to the Christ Child. After that sign we find many other convincing epiphanies declaring Jesus as Christ. At His baptism, a dove descends on Jesus and a voice declares Him as “God’s beloved child.” With miracle after miracle, we witness countless epiphanies in the blind regaining their sight, the paralyzed able to walk, the dead raised, the sea calmed, the 5000 fed, and the triumphant trio on the Mt. of Transfiguration.
We wonder how the people alive in Jesus’ day could have missed who He really was. We might even say to ourselves that if we had been there we surely wouldn’t have missed it. Yet, I wonder. Like Dr. Watson, we miss the obvious presence of God while we stare off into space. The stranger at our doorstep just might be an angel unawares. The person who is poor in spirit next door just might be God’s final test of our faith before we are called home. What if we miss these epiphanies? Heaven knows what might happen.
I am going to live by faith and hang in there, focusing on the presence and power of God. I will not succumb to the nay saying hopelessness that is anti-Gospel. I’m looking forward to a 2011 that has me perched on the edge of my seat anticipating God’s epiphanies!