Feast of the Epiphany

January 7, 2024

January 7, 2024

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January 7, 2024

Feast of the Epiphany

Nontando

Nontando

Hadebe

Hadebe

Epiphany greetings, everyone!

Last year I hosted the launch of a book. An autobiography written by a friend - a young woman with disabilities who was born with a degenerative bone disease that confined her to a wheelchair from birth until now. In her autobiography, she traces her own personal journey from questioning the purposes of God and why she was born that way, right to a time where she was able to look at herself, her body, and say, ‘I am perfect.’

When she uttered those words, the audience gasped because many of the women present at the launch were able bodied and in their frame of thinking, a body in a wheelchair did not represent a perfect body. So, this disruption that she brought from her experience and from her encounter with God shifted the thinking of those who were present.

I want to take a similar thought as we read the gospel. And I want to look at the gospel through the eyes of the delegation from the East. They left their homes, following a star that led them to Jerusalem. They were searching for the King of the Jews to be born. And while they were there, they encountered Herod. You can imagine when they stepped into that palace, all that extravagance, the attire, everything in that palace signaled what power was. And so, when they were told that the baby Jesus was not in the palace, but that he would be born rather in Bethlehem, they followed the star.

And where did the star lead them? To a place that is in profound contrast to the palace of Herod. Here in the manger lay the King. Here in a manger surrounded by animals - probably messy and smelly. And around the King was his parents, Mary and Joseph, and the shepherds who were the lowest class at that time. What a contrast! To their credit the delegation from the East believed in the star. They believed in what they saw, and they worshiped the baby. And they gave their gifts.

They were told not to go back to the symbol of power in Herod, but to take a different route. Can you imagine the birth of the King, the incarnation of God, in a place that is unimaginable for any newborn baby - in a manger surrounded by cows and goats and sheep in a smelly place? That was the seat of power. And it was to the credit, as I said, that the delegation from the East believed.

And here we see God disrupting everything that we think in terms of power, in terms of where a king should be, and in terms of understanding how the world will be transformed. Here we have the incarnation happening in its most vulnerable - a baby. Who would be more helpless than a baby, and a couple with no influence, and a group of shepherds who were also the most marginalized?

Everything about this story is disruptive and challenges every conception that we have of power and how things should be. So, the message of the Epiphany to us today is to follow the star to those places around us where we will encounter the disruption of God in the lives of people that are in the margins.

God chose to be revealed in power in a baby to the underclass of that time. And so, we can expect that as we celebrate Epiphany, that we need to look for the presence and sign of God in those places that will disrupt all our categories. And like the delegation of the East, let us have the courage to respond with faith to the disruptive messages around us from the poor, the underclass, those that have been rendered invisible in our communities and in our families. It is there that we will encounter the living Christ.

A blessed Epiphany to you.

First Reading

Is 60:1-6

PSALM

Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13.

Second Reading

Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6

GOSPEL

Mt 2:1-12
Read texts at usccb.org

Nontando Hadebe

Nontando Hadebe

Dr Nontando Hadebe is an African Catholic woman feminist theologian based in Johannesburg South Africa. She is currently coordinating gender justice projects at Side by Side and Bread for the  world. She is on board of Future Church and hosts a weekly radio program with Radio Veritas.


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