The Cathedral of St. Philip - Atlanta, GA

New Year Epiphanies

A sermon by the Rev. Dr. Thee Smith
The Feast of the Epiphany – Year C


  • Do you remember the realization we had as young adults? As our teenage selves we regarded our parents as somewhat slow, demented seniors. But as we grew up we began to realize:
  • ‘Wow! The older I get, the smarter my parents get!’
  • And do you remember the famous riddle of the Sphinx:

What walks on 4 legs in the morning, 2 at noon, and 3 in the evening?

  • The answer, you recall, was ‘Man,’ or Human beings, who begin crawling on all fours as children, walk upright on two legs as we grow up and become adults, and walk with canes as elders.
  • Consider in that connection the philosopher Ken Wilber’s two stages of personal development stages – 1) first we grow up, but if we continue in our personal development we get to the second stage 2) where we wake up
  • And that leads us to today’s epistle where Paul tells where he woke up as an apostle:
  • Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things;
  • so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord . . . (Eph. 3.6ff.)

  • And here’s our related query for this first day of Epiphany, observing the 12 days of Christmas, as climaxed by today’s gospel reading where “wise men from the East . . . saw that the star had stopped [and] were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
  • Epiphany = manifestation = revelation
  • Today’s Epiphany query: What is being revealed to you that climaxes the quest and journey of your life, which as Paul said has been a hidden mystery but is now being revealed?
  • Compare The Young Messiah film



What might Jesus have been like … when He was 7? That intriguing question provides the [story line] for The Young Messiah, a movie adaptation of Anne Rice's 2005 novel Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt.

  • Scripture provides few details regarding Jesus' life as a child. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke record that Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt from Bethlehem [in order] to escape Herod's plot to snuff out the young Messiah's life. And we know that the couple returned years later, settling in Nazareth, then journeying to Jerusalem for the Passover. Rice's fictional take on Jesus' youth, brought to life here by writer and director Cyrus Nowrasteh, fills in the speculative details of what littleJesus' might have been like … as well as the thorny questions about when exactly He knew that He was, in fact, Immanuel, God With Us . . .
  • All the while, Jesus keeps asking his parents why He can do things no other boy can. It's a simple question with a destiny-shaping answer, one that Joseph and Mary aren't sure their son—who they know is actually God's Son—is old enough to hear just yet.
  • My paraphrase of words spoken by the film version Joseph, delivering his fatherly counsel of patience to the 7 year-old Jesus, who is bewildered by the fact that he can do things no other child can.
  • ‘You’re right to ask the questions of a young child. But the really true answers are not for a child to know. They’re the answers for a grown man to find out; and not for an ordinary man like me, but for the man you will become when you are ready to know the answers.
  • Those will be the answers that you will be telling the rest of us when that time comes.’
  • Now, what are the questions you are asking about the meaning of your life at the start of this New Year 2019?
  • questions for which you would like answers with as much promise of satisfaction and fulfillment as we read about in our scriptures appointed for this first Sunday of the Epiphany season?
  • and answers that, for you, might be as satisfying, rewarding or fulfilling as those that our Lord himself discovered as he grew to full maturity in this life and beyond?
  • My own version: How can I fulfill my calling and vocation as a writer and, at the same time, be true and faithful to my relationships of family, friends, and other pastoral commitments?

An Epiphany prayer for 2019:

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your Christ Child to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, as you led the magi, the apostles, and all those who have sought you before us, to find an epiphany answer, in the year ahead, to a mystery that has eluded us in years past, that we may find purpose and meaning, fulfillment and glory, as our Lord himself realized in this life and beyond!