Epiphany (A Message for a Post-Church Culture)

by Rev. Timothy C. Cartwright




The Celestial Surgeon

If I have faltered more or less
In my great task of happiness;
If I have moved among my race
And shown no glorious morning
If beams from happy human eyes
Have moved me not; if morning
Books, and my food, and summer
Knocked on my sullen heart in
Lord, Your most pointed pleasure
And stab my spirit broad awake


— Robert Louis Stevenson

O Little Town of Bethlehem
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting light.
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.


— Phillips Brooks

Countless people attend thousands of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings. Common phrases are repeated. One such phrase, “Attraction verses Promotion,” indicates how newcomers are drawn to the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous.

“Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him” (Matt. 2:2 ESV).

Read Matt. 2:1–12. Who were these visitors to Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus?




What did they bring?




Where did they come from?




When did their search conclude?




Why didn’t they stay longer?




A degree of mystery surrounds the Wise Men, the Magi. They were students, seekers, and thinkers. They have been called kings. They were from a distant land, some say Persia. The number who made the trip is assumed to be three because of the number of gifts identified: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They brought “not only great gifts but the dust of a thousand miles” (Kent R. Hughes). In other words, they brought their lives. Legend has named them Balthazar, Melchior, and Caspar. They were drawn to the Savior of the world at a complicated, convoluted, and confusing time. They did not have GPS. A star of grace directed them and gave them hope on their journey. They were drawn to the Savior of the world much like the prodigal son was drawn back home in Luke 15.

The Magi, I suspect, had “hopes and fears” much like you and me. They might have had spirits in need of being “stabbed awake.”

Folks dealing with addictions, or even educated men and women in a culture’s grandest settings—the Magi of society—regularly reach “life moments” when the spirit becomes dull, dusty, lifeless. People collide with unmet hopes and gnawing fears. We, too, travel from distant places, drawn by a star of mercy, directing us to hope, to Jesus. There is no place so dark, so dusty, so distant, that the Epiphany star cannot reach it.

The Wise Men Guided by the Star
by Gustave Doré

To have an “epiphany” means to make a discovery, to have an “aha” moment that can change your life.

The Magi’s epiphany: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Why didn’t the Magi stay longer? Jesus had drawn them unto Himself (John 12:32). The brilliant light of the world illumined a dark place (John 1:5). The encounter of the Magi with the Savior of the world transformed their lives. They were sent back home to shine (Matt. 5:16 and Phil. 2:15), to attract others.

“Oh, I get it!”

We, also, are sent to shine.

About the Author: Rev. Timothy C. Cartwright is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, Ashland, Ore.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top