The message at the heart of Epiphany is that God shows up. And where does God show up? In a podunk village, among a peasant family, in the company of roughneck shepherds and smelly livestock, and not in Herod’s palace. In a manger, not on a throne.
What all of that darkness and light imagery points to is this: Jesus reveals God to believers and to the world in a unique, definitive way. Jesus is the spiritual light that helps us to see clearly who God is and who we are.
That’s the point of the birth story, really. That’s the theological beating heart of Christmas: God taking on the skin and bones, the grit and grime of life. Divinity assuming humanity for the sole purpose of being with us in our ordinariness.
Scary, unruly, wild and woolly John the Baptist, pointing with his finger, might make us squirm under the light of judgment. But his finger also points to the One who is coming—the One who brings mercy.
That’s what Matthew aims to do, in fact, is to tell in his gospel the story of God’s power and presence come among us in a new way, of God among us in the Messiah in a way that we did not, could not expect.
During Paul’s time in prison, his relationship with Onesimus was transformed by the gospel, and he expects the same will be true with Philemon.
All-in moments come in all shapes and sizes. They can come at any moment. And they can change our lives.
This is a highly unusual encounter; as Barbara Brown Taylor put it, “For a modern parallel, imagine a diplomat in Washington, D.C., inviting a street preacher to join him in his late model Lexus for a little Bible study. The inclusion in this story runs both ways.”
And now this woman–this woman who once was possessed, whom they knew to be unstable, she was telling them this absurd thing, that Jesus wasn’t dead anymore, that the world didn’t work the way they knew it worked.
Maybe Joseph was on the fence before about who this man was and what he stood for, but in claiming the corpse of Jesus he is publicly associating himself with Jesus. All the way to the grave.