Sermon preached at Mattins on the Feast of Epiphany (6 January 2019) by the Revd Helen O'Sullivan, Chaplain

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Sermon preached at Mattins on the Feast of Epiphany (6 January 2019) by the Revd Helen O'Sullivan, Chaplain

The Chaplain reflects on Christ the Morning Star, who is the source of all light and our guiding light. 


In truth, I enjoy the Epiphany season as much, if not more than Christmas. Yes Christmas has its moments. Here at St Paul’s we have welcomed thousands upon thousands from around the world to share with us in worship that has astounded, and inspired, and deeply touched those who were able to share in it. 
And at its best Christmas provides us with a space in which to reflect upon God’s love for us and to focus upon what we value and where the meaning and purpose of our lives lie, and to be thankful. 

But we are all aware that for many there is little or no time at reflect or to enjoy Christmas because of the pressures of personal or professional circumstances; and so Christmas becomes for many a season from which they need to recover rather than a season which restores. 

How many of us will be tightening our belts financially or otherwise?

And how many (as we have seen in the press this last week) will be filing for divorce?

Christmas can rather unfortunately, be a painful and difficult time for many.

And the Christmas story is too easily diminished or dismissed by cynics and sceptics and secularists alike. 

But in this season of Epiphany, we have an opportunity to go deeper in our contemplation and celebration of the incarnation without these pressures, and without the reduction of something of eternal value into something of seemingly largely commercial value. 

Without any of the pressures of Christmas, we continue to celebrate and remember the revelation of divine love in the Christ child through the marking of the visit of the Magi, the Baptism of Christ, and the first miracle at Cana. Each offering us an alternative perspective of;

how we encounter Christ, 
where it all began, 
and how we continue to encounter God incarnate today.

The first of the Epiphany stories is of course the nativity story itself. Over the years I have, as you might imagine, seen very many nativity plays with the traditional Christmas story reinterpreted for our times with a variety of novelty character appearances. One particularly memorable one included a time travelling doctor. But the one character that has constantly captured my imagination is that of the star which of course features particularly in our celebration today. The star which led the magi to the Christ child and of which we will sing in our hymn in a few moments.

There is of course another light, the source itself, the divine light, Christ the morning star, in praise of whom we heard sung at the beginning of matins, the canticle surge illuminare, taken from the prophecy of Isaiah set as the Old Testament reading (where it is used) for the Eucharist on this feast of the Epiphany. The song of the New Jerusalem as it is reinterpreted in the Christian tradition. And the Epiphany stories draw us to this source of all light.

Through a guiding light, 

through revelation (through the descent of the Spirit at a Baptism) and through the comprehension of gratuitous blessing in the miracle at Cana, 
we recall and meditate upon encounters with divine presence over the next few weeks as we travel through the season of Epiphany to the Feast of the Presentation, Candlemas. 

And as we travel through this season we are, each of us I believe invited to encounter afresh, Emmanuel, God with us. 

In the awe and wonder, reverence and worship of the Magi of a new born baby in whom they saw the fullness of God - surely we recognise that we are ourselves called to reverence the divine potential in our humanity and that of our neighbours. What does that mean for our reappraisal of ourselves or of others? Or of the gift that we and others are if only we can open our eyes and minds and hearts to comprehend that gift.

In the Baptism of Christ - we are called to renew and reaffirm our commitment to following Christ’s example of being a living embodiment of the Gospel. How might this call us to reorder our priorities, and refocus our energies?

In the miracle at Cana we are reminded of the grace available to enable us to shine a light into darkness and to draw others to encounter Christ. How might this in all humility enable us to accept this gift of grace and to share it?

I was given a star as a present this Christmas and it will forever be a precious reminder to me of the vocation to which I believe we are all called. To show the way, not to get in the way, but to point to the hope of the nations, the light of the world, and to find in that light the path to life.

And so as we travel through this season may I invite you to look afresh at; 

the world around you, 
the people around you, 
the places you work, 
the people you work with, 
the places you relax, 
and the people you relax with, 

and to discover in them just such unexpected revelations of divine love as were encountered by 
the magi, 
the crowds at the Jordan, 
and the wedding guests at Cana. 

Let us pray,

Creator of the heavens who led the Magi by a star to worship the Christ-child; guide and sustain us that we might find our journey’s end in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.