Year B Christmas 2 Epiphany John 1
Light of the World
You can put him in the desert surrounded by people who are chronically unsatisfied, and Jesus says, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty" (John 6:35).
You can put him in the midst of people who are confused, people who ask, "Who are you, Jesus? What makes you different from all the other gurus, rabbis, and religious leaders?" And Jesus says, "I am the gate for the sheep. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture" (10:7, 9). It is an act of self-definition.
You can put him at graveside, in the midst of grief-stricken people, and Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live" (11:25).
Or put him in the midst of people who feel disconnected by life's difficulties, and Jesus says, "I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing" (15:5).
In the Gospel of John, in one situation after another, Jesus defines himself and says, "This is who I am...." In the eighth chapter, Jesus says, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life" (8:12). His words echo the opening words of the Fourth Gospel, where the writer defines the person and work of Jesus in terms of light. "What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people ... The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world" (1:3-4, 9).
Jesus says, "I am the light of the world." This is the kind of thing we might expect to hear in these days after Christmas. Not long ago we gathered on Christmas Eve to hear the prophet Isaiah say, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light." We don't know if old Isaiah had any idea who or what he was talking about, yet we celebrate Christmas as a festival of light. We string up twinkle lights on fir trees. We illumine our houses. We burn candles in the windows and plug in GE bulbs on the shrubbery. We burn up the kilowatts because Jesus Christ is born. In the bleak midwinter, why not shine a little light?...
- The Light of the World.
- The Light Comes into Darkness.
A Theology of Linguistic Linguini
Let's begin with a little survey.
How many of you have you have taken down your Christmas tree and packed up all the festive decorations until next December? How many of you are still living with your Christmas bling-bling? I thought so. There are not too many of us who hold on and hold out until the passing of Epiphany to take down our Christmas décor.
This year Epiphany, January 6, falls on Tuesday, a nondescript day of the week. We are back at work. Kids are back at school. Post-Christmas and New Year's sales are over. It's too early to plan for "President's Day" or Valentine's Day.
We find Epiphany, the day the Magi finally reached Mary and Joseph and offered their extravagant gifts to the baby Jesus, slightly off-putting.
Maybe it is because we've jumped the gun and have already opened up . . . used up . . . eaten up . . . even broken up . . . all our presents by now. Maybe we have a sneaking sense that "we should have waited." So we crate our crèches even before the wise men get a chance to show up for the celebration.
But maybe there is something else about epiphany that makes us uncomfortable.
When the Magi finally reached their destination, what was the first thing they did?
They "knelt down and paid him homage" (Matthew 2:11). Specifically Christian worship begins here, and on the Sunday closest to Epiphany.
These were rich, respected, wise men. They were on speaking terms with the king. As astrologers they were privy to the secrets of the stars, and the stars held the secrets to the universe. They were not even Jews. In this East meets West moment, the Eastern cults and traditions of the magi were far removed from the messianic traditions of the Hebrews.
Yet when they came into the presence of this little star-born baby, what did they do? They threw themselves down on the ground without hesitation but with abject humility. Think of that crèche you put away. Wasn't at least one of the wise men kneeling? Here was one to be offered praise and glory. Here was one whose greatness was to be honored. Here was one born to be "adored." "Oh, come, let us adore him."
What does "adore" mean? In its Latin roots it means to reverence and honor. But it is a much stronger word than "honor," or the Latin venerari. It actually is equivalent to the Greek proskunein, which means to "prostrate." So to say "I adore Chipotle burritos" or "I adore my little brother" is to say something almost sacrilegious. For to "adore" something is to go as far as we can go in worship and praise. You can glorify God, and praise God, and bless God. But when you "adore" God, you go as far as you can go. You take the ultimate step...