This week we celebrate Epiphany. Well, the church does. I must admit that by this point in the holidays I am usually relaxing fairly seriously and have rarely, if ever, made it to a church service. So I had to look this up to figure out what Epiphany actually is. I had some vague notion of it having to do with the wise men arriving, or us all coming to some understanding of what this Christ child was, but that’s about the extent of my knowledge. I’m not way far off as it is traditionally the festival that celebrates the moment when it is revealed that Christ is God born as a human being, and this revelation is made to the three Magi.
Not surprisingly, I didn’t receive any requests for a favourite hymn that matches with this day. There are not very many of them to begin with, and I suspect it isn’t a high point in the liturgical year for most of us. And yet, it is a fairly spectacular concept – the merging of the Divine with humanity. As I thought about it, I wondered if it shouldn’t be more important to me. The idea that as a human I am worthy of this deep connection with God; that I am, in a sense, part of this spiritual union, is powerful. Once again it speaks to our intrinsic value.
The hymn for today is a beautiful tune from the mid 1700s, with text written by John S. B. Monsell around 1863. The words that struck me most were these:
Fear not to enter his courts in the slenderness
of the poor wealth thou wouldst reckon as thine;
truth in its beauty, and love in its tenderness,
these are the offerings to lay on His shrine.
These, though we bring them in trembling and fearfulness,
he will accept for the Name that is dear;
mornings of joy give for evenings of tearfulness,
trust for our trembling, and hope for our fear.
We live in a world where what is valued revolves heavily around success, fame, money, appearances and possessions. There seems to be a very short list of gifts and talents that are deemed worthy of celebration, or even acceptance. But these words remind me that it is truth and love that are welcome. In moments of discouragement and perceived failure, these remain – even if brought forward with fear and trembling. When thinking about this moment of epiphany, of this discovery that we are worthy of being connected to the Divine, the gifts to be offered are within us. We need not acquire them, we need not even be confident as we give them. To me this is so hopeful; sacred and shared by us all. The union of our humanness and divinity and the beauty of holiness.