Much was made in the news media about the “Christmas Star”, or rather the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. Some of the news accounts made it sound like the event was happening suddenly and would be gone the next day. In reality, anyone who has been watching the night sky for some months has seen the planets appear closer together than they often do. And as the year has progressed they could be seen moving even closer culminating in the appearance to the naked eye as if they merged on the 21st. But now they are beginning to appear further away from each other, and this too will happen gradually over many months, though much of it will not be visible to us because it will occur during the daylight hours when the sun’s brightness will mask the stars.
I got to thinking that this is like the Christmas events described in the bible. When Christ was born it was a sudden miraculous event. No one was expecting God to become incarnate in human flesh. It wasn’t on anyone’s radar. It seemed a sudden spectacular event. But as the early Christians looked back in the scriptures, they found prophecies that hinted at it. There are enough prophecies (most of which we read at Christmas time) that show God had been preparing for this event for centuries or even millennia, probably ever since the fall of Adam and Eve into sin. Paul called it a great Mystery which God worked out then revealed at the right moment.
That’s how much of life is. God is constantly working in us to bring us back into a relationship. But it often takes a sudden rush of insight revealed by His Spirit before we realize it. We call those moments epiphanies. The word epiphaino in Greek literally means “to shine on”. It is like the light being turned on so that we can see what is already there. The day the Church celebrates as Epiphany commemorates the revelation to the magi (gentiles) of God’s desire to save all people through the child who was born. But each of us have individual events when we see the truth suddenly and turn to God.
These are not once in a lifetime events, but we repeatedly have these “aha” moments when we realize another aspect of how God has been working in our lives or another area that we need to turn over to God instead of trying to keep control ourselves. We are constantly seeing new aspects of God’s love, and learning how we can love God more, or love other people more. In these cases the moment of revelation is important, but what is more important is how we incorporate these newly revealed truths into our walk with God. The gospels make it clear that even the demons recognize that Jesus is the Messiah, but instead of responding to His love, they only obey when they see his Authority. They try to hide and flee, rather than accept forgiveness and grace.
Even in the Christmas story, this choice is made. The Shepherds chose to respond to the announcement by angels of the birth of a Savior. They went to see the Child. The Magi sometime later (we know this because the child was no longer in a manger but in a house) came to see a child whose birth was foretold in the heavens. How many other people saw the star but didn’t try to find out its meaning? The magi worshiped the child. Herod on the other hand heard the news of this child and sought to protect his own power and position by killing the children in Bethlehem.
We have celebrated the baby who grew into a great healer and teacher who died for us on the cross and rose again. Do we glimpse the glory revealed in the baby, and seek to learn more of the man? Do we ignore it, or do we truly say every day, “Lord show me more of You, that I may serve You more?”