January 2014 - Epiphany - Revd. Preb Maureen Hobbs
|Sermon for Epiphany Sunday Evening
John 2. 1-11
So that is nearly it for another year.
Mince pies all eaten? Turkey reduced to soups and curry? Maybe
a crumb or two of Christmas cake still lurking?
I trust that Christmas was as good for you as it could possibly
be. Mine was most enjoyable - marked this year by attending the
wedding of the daughter of some good friends ... and of course
by the extraordinary weather - of which it seems there is no
Because of that wedding and wanting to spend some time with my
friend who happens now to live in N. Wales, I did a fair amount
of travelling during the Christmas break. And travelling is what
we think about tonight as our thoughts remain with the Wise Men
on their journey to find the new-born king.
It has been remarked that not for nothing is January named for
the two-headed, Roman god, Janus. The god of doorways. One head
facing back into the past. One looking to the future. Fitting
perhaps as we contemplate the New Year - 2014, stretching out
And the Wise Men - or the Kings if you prefer - have something
of that same quality. They come from an ancient past and bring
with them all the accumulated wisdom of their star charts and
their studies. Yet they too look to a future - one that is uncertain
and mysterious. One that is partly hidden from view as they try
to draw closer to it - so that they have to seek answers from
some dubious sources before they can reach their goal.
We cannot simply forget the past that each of us brings to the
present - it will inevitably shape what happens to us and with
us in the future. The Wise Men came seeking a king. They thought
they would find someone with real power and authority and the
gifts they brought were calculated to impress. Gold, Frankincense
and Myrrh are definitely the sort of presents one would bring
to royalty - to the person who has everything .... and perhaps
who knows the value of nothing?
But what and who they found was very different. Instead of the
royal palace they were expecting, they found only a stable or
cave. Instead of the uniformed servants, the cup-bearers and
bodyguards, they found only a humble carpenter and his young
wife. Instead of the powerful king who had everything, they found
only a child - a baby with nothing to call his own. And we can
only guess that the future for them as they journeyed back to
their distant homes was a very different one than that they had
They had glimpsed the Salvation of the World; had known themselves
to be on hallowed ground, and had been moved to change their
route from here on in. Going back by another path.
And what of us this Epiphany-tide? Where do we come seeking God
and what do we expect to find there? Almost certainly we too
will have to rethink our ideas. Ideas that come from the baggage
of our experience in the past. The only thing we can know for
certain is that God will find ways to surprise us, to take us
unawares. And where we expect something special and royal and
powerful and impressive, God will say to us "Hey, look over
here - look I am in the most ordinary parts of your lives! Don't
look to find me among those who wield power or think they are
important.... I am to be found in the simple things, the ordinary
and the mundane.
So when Jesus attends a wedding, he goes as an ordinary guest
- but one who can transform a potential social disaster into
a wonderful and generous blessing.
Fortunately I was not called upon to perform any such feats of
wonder at the wedding I attended last week! But I was there as
an ordinary guest and that gave me a quite different perspective
on the events of the ceremony and celebrations. I saw a young
woman - one I have known since here infancy - commit her life
and happiness to a young man with whom she is obviously deeply
in love - as he is with her. They have all their future ahead
of them - triumphs and tragedies no doubt - and like their parents
I can look on from a distance; I can help and advise if asked
- but am in reality powerless to influence what they make of
their life together ... only they and God can do that.
We cannot repeat the past, whether we'd like to or not, nor can
we walk away from it. We cannot create a new future which is
completely unrelated to what we have been. But we can decide
how we will use our past and our future to enable us to live
the lives we know we are really capable of. The past need not
be just nostalgia, or regret - the future need not be unrealistic
optimism or fearful anticipation.
The years roll on and on. January 2014 is really not that likely
to be hugely different from December 2013. The real difference
comes with the breaking in - if we will let it - of the life
of God into our own lives. That's not an exercise in nostalgia,
but a gift which transforms our whole lives, past, present and
future, by fulfilling them with the life of God. God's Christmas
present to us is the gift of ourselves - ourselves as we wish,
in our best moments, we could be. It's the gift of reconciliation
with our past, and hope for the future.