Rev.  Jan Bihl
Slideshow image

Tending to Epiphany

 Power Outage. What do you do when you have no electric light or heat?

At New Years’ we went to a retreat center for some quiet rest and reflection after a very full Advent and Christmas time. Three days into our stay there was a major wind storm resulting in a 24-hour power-outage…and no generator. After rummaging for as many flashlights as possible and starting a fire in the fireplace, we gathered for the regular daily evening prayer – by candle light.

That took all of about an hour.

We had not come to the retreat center as a group, but individually, like strangers. But after doing the best we could with each of us cooking our supper on the gas stove, our individual lives morphed into something unexpected: the forming of community.

First, we became aware of the palpable silence and stillness. Time. Space. Quiet conversations. Music. We had tapped into a different way of being and knowing. Attending to the soul. To the person in front of us. To the community around us. To the stillness to be found even on the inside. Surprised by the Life of God, so rich and deep, and broad – happening under the radar. Away from what usually captures our attention, time, and energy. Media, news, TV. Busy-ness. Here we were on holy ground. Steeped in the Mystery we could experience but never fully explain.

And the night sky…so clear. Constellations and planets bold against the dark expanse.

I was reminded of the Magi, travelling by night, being in the quiet (not an iPhone among them), watching the night sky and being guided by a light. The ancients had a way of knowing, a way of reading signs in the skies and on earth. They knew the interconnectedness of heaven and earth.  They knew how to seek and search and follow until the star stopped over the place where Jesus was. And there to enter and pay homage. They knew how to tend to a deeper knowing.

Imagine their surprise in finding that the newborn king, the Prince of Peace, was not to be found in a palace but in a humble abode, under the radar of King Herod’s control. A surprising epiphany. Holy ground. Mystery that transformed them. Insight that warned them not to report back to Herod. Wisdom to work out a different way home, undetected by Herod’s hoard.

After all, the story of the Magi doesn’t begin with “in the days of King Herod” for nothing! Let’s not be seduced into thinking that Christmas is simply a harmless Hallmark tradition. The time of Jesus’ birth, like today, held danger and threat to his life. Like being born in Syria today under King/President Assad’s rule by violence.  In all times and places, this story warns us that the Life of God is risky business because it is powerful business. It seeks nothing less than to change the world – one heart and will at a time!

The story of Jesus’ birth abounds with invitations for us to tap into this deeper knowing. To pay attention to what God is up to under the radar. To be those who listen to angels, and dreams, and follow a star to find the promised One. The story is packed with action and choices that people are making in response to their listening and hearing and following. It’s messy. It’s at once vulnerable and powerful. It’s risky.

What might God be up to under the radar here and now?

 As you and I journey in these uncertain times, let us be inspired and empowered for our time and allow our hearts to be opened to Jesus, who calls forth the best in us: love, joy, hope, peace…