Our two cats are creatures of the earth. The red tabby, just a tad overweight, sleeps a great deal, and craves affection when awake. He hears us enter the house and is soon nuzzling and purring around our legs. The black-and-white longhair, a tad underweight, sleeps less and mourns our absence by dragging small stuffed animals around the house as she wails piercingly (we caught her doing this once when she couldn’t find us). When we return home we discover the baby white chicken on the stairs, the red ladybug near my office chair, the orange bumble bee by the front door. Laddie and Lady Jane are simple creatures with simple desires. They do not ask the meaning of life, or how to become happy, or why must we die.
But we humans do ask these questions. We wonder, we ponder, we plan, we record, we make lists. We read symbols called letters that form larger symbols called words that make up long phrases assembled to make paragraphs and pages and books. We follow a train of thought with these symbols as we build cities of ideas in the landscapes of our minds. We also, like cats, sleep and eat and love and desire friendship and community. But we are far more, for we reflect our Creator.
Today is the Feast of the Epiphany, when we celebrate the Wise Men following the bright star to worship the heavenly king born among men on earth. Our Jewish-Christian preacher, our new rector, stood in the center of the aisle this morning and described the long road the star had taken in time, from Abraham to the People of Israel to the Messiah born in Bethlehem. The numbers were many as the twelve tribes grew, but over the years a single tribe was chosen, a single family line was chosen, and a single woman was chosen to bear the Son of God, born to the People of Israel, in this moment in time. And we too, all others in the world – Gentiles – can now follow the star, that light in the darkness, to the Christ child.
The light in the darkness. We began in Advent with John’s promised light in the darkness. And now we end the twelve days of Christmas with that same image of light shining in the dark night.
The earthy things of creation are made new. The star recreates the manger of earth and beasts and childbirth in the hay to become something far greater than the natural order it seems to be part of. The star in the heavens bathes our planet in light, bathes us in light. We are pulled into eternity of time and space by such a star. And by such an incarnation. And by such a God.
God is born among men on earth. The supernatural intersects the natural. Our own spirits made in God’s image are called to understand, to believe, to meet this Heavenly Father, to hallow His Name.
I was thankful today in church for our new rector who understands this artful (and powerful) journey God made through time with his People of Israel. Our new rector understands the grand and glorious nature of the drama that has gone before us and he looks forward to the drama that will comes to each of us. He knows we are in the middle of the drama now, in the present. We need only see in the light.
The mother of a dear friend is dying. She will soon be part of the future drama, that great adventure of heaven when Christ will take her hand and lead her, bathing her in his love. And we, left behind on earth, will take part in the drama of the present with every Eucharist, every prayer, every sacramental offering as the new People of God, the Body of Christ. For that child born in Bethlehem, the culmination of the journey of the Children of Israel, has grown to become the Body of Christ on earth, the Church.
So we leave the rich and wonder-filled seasons of Advent and Christmas and enter Epiphanytide, the season of light. Like cats, we continue to eat and sleep. We continue to love and to be loved. But unlike cats, we partake of the holy as we worship together in church. Together as the Church we journey into a new year. Together as His Body we follow the light of the bright star in the heavens, on the altar, as eternity grows within us.