Sunday, January 6, 2013


I'm scouring the internet for resources on Epiphany for a church presentation. Tomorrow is Epiphany, but did I ever really understand what that meant?

What I found was this: Palestine Israel Network-A 2012 Epiphany Message from Jim Lewis  

Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree, putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes.

That’s how W. H. Auden ends his Christmas Oratorio. And we know he is right because Christmas trees have been dismantled, the crèche has been stored, Santa is gone from the mall, and we are left to live into the bleak midwinter we sang about at the Christmas Eve worship.

But we must not lose hope. After the twelve days of Christmas, the Christian calendar offers believers a lovely sugarplum. It is called Epiphany.

Beginning on January 6, it lasts for forty-seven days and the arrival of Lent. The Epiphany liturgical season begins with words from Isaiah (60:1-6). “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” They are encouraging words that balance Isaiah’s reminder: “For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples.”

Enter the Magi, following the star with gifts for the Christ Child, who will one day tell his disciples, “I am the light of world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 9:5). Epiphany is the celebration of the “true light that gives light to everyone,” a light that will not be overcome by the darkness (John 1:1-8).

The comparison between then and now is astonishing. The People of Israel, when Jesus was born, were looking for deliverance from the oppressive occupation of their land by the Roman Empire. Today, in like manner, Palestinians are looking for deliverance from the oppressive occupation of their land by the Government of Israel. Then and now, the lesson is on display for our edification. The lesson learned: Occupation only leads to injustice, violence, and isolation. Occupation is darkness personified. It pleads for light. But what, we might ask, was the raison d’etre for this child in the crèche? What better definition than this:

“ For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14).

 Ah, The Prince of Peace battering down walls that separate people and nations.

There is no more appropriate symbol of hostility than The Wall erected by the Government of Israel separating Jews from Palestinians—all 430 miles of it when completed. It epitomizes the hostility between Jews and Palestinians. The existence of The Wall begs the question: If the Magi were to attempt a visit today to the Palestinian city of Bethlehem in search of God incarnate in humble settings there, would The Wall prevent them from their destination?

The answer seems self-evident to people of faith. As long as The Wall exists, built upon the illegal appropriation of Palestinian land, darkness will cover the land like a pall, and the light that enables a just peace will be shrouded. Like the Berlin Wall, or any wall that separates people and nations, it must be taken down. A divided land, like a divided self, is at war with itself and destined for a disastrous future. What gifts do we, like the Magi, have to offer the Prince of Peace in a divided land, the birthplace of Jesus?

Here’s a gift suggestion: Epiphany is an appropriate time to pray for peace as Jews and Palestinians once again renew negotiations in Jordan. And, by way of action, to work politically in this election year to put an end to U.S. foreign policy and corporate business military-based activity that perpetuates the violence between Jews and Palestinians. Consider such a gift as a way of discipleship directed toward breaking down the dividing walls of hostility.

I starting looking for more Epiphany messages, and ended up on several EAPPI blogs. The Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel invites people from all over the world to live among occupied Palestinian communities that are most vulnerable. The South Hebron Hills, Yanoun, places were land and resources are being stolen, people are being displaced by the Israeli army or settlements...

I met several EAPPI's and members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams, they're such wonderful people. The oldest I met was 80-something, and the youngest, about 20, from Brazil, Sweden, Spain, Pakistan, Canada, never from the States though, unfortunately.

One of the EAPPI's posted this prayer in her blog, and I want to share it here:


You ask for our courage to protect the powerless but we prefer to remain safe, preserving ourselves for future challenges.

You ask us to speak out for justice but we whisper, in case we are heard.

You ask us to stand up for what is right, but we would rather blend in to the crowd

You ask us to have faith, when doubting seems so much easier.

Lord forgive our calculated efforts to follow you, only when it is convenient to do so, only in those places where it is safe to do so, only with those who make it easy to do so.

Together we pray 
God forgive us and renew us;
 Inspire us and challenge us 
So that we might risk the journey, to your kingdom with you,