Epiphany; January 2, 2022; Isaiah 60:1-6
Nerves were already frayed at the grocery store, when the customer entered the building. One-third of the staff was at home with Covid. The remainder of the employees were overworked and tired. The customer entered looking for Cambozola, an Italian blue cheese. He had been cooped up too long, and he was in no mood to be disappointed. He scoured the dairy section but could not find the cheese. So, he flagged an employee to look again. She could not find the cheese either. Then he demanded that she look in the back and search the computer. No luck. Then the man lost it. He threw a tantrum like a six-year-old who could not get what he wanted—a 60-year-old man screaming and insulting the people around him, because the expensive, imported blue cheese that he wanted to buy was not in stock. The manager called the police. When they took the statement from the woman who bore the brunt of the man’s anger, she said “When I saw the man stomping his feet and attacking the people around him, I thought to myself: this was not about cheese.”
No. It’s not about cheese. We have been cooped up too long. We are exhausted from arguing about vaccines and masks. We are worried about infecting vulnerable members of our family. We are confused about changing protocols of the CDC. And we are frightened, as we watch political disagreements morph into political hatred.
As we begin 2022, it seems that we must prepare ourselves for continuing outburst of anger and madness. And today, in this explosive and unstable environment, we gather to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, the feast that tells us that Christ’s light is meant to shine in our world. There’s no doubt that the light of Christ is meant to shine through us. As Isaiah tells the people of Jerusalem in today’s first reading, “nations will walk by your light.” So, what is the light that you and I, as Christians, need to shine on our nation, today?
I would suggest to you that it is a light of patience. The next time that we are engaged in a discussion over booster shots and health and protocols, we should listen patiently to the other person. Even if we don’t disagree, our patient respect will show that we follow Jesus. It is a light of kindness. As we enter a store, we should make a conscious effort to be gracious to those who work there, placing their well-being on an equal footing with the things we seek to buy. That kindness will testify that we believe in God’s love. It is also a light of gratitude. The next time we meet someone involved in public service, a health-care worker or a teacher, we should express gratitude for the service they provide. That thankfulness will reflect the thankfulness we owe to God, for all the blessings we receive.
Who knows what variants or crises we will have to face in 2022. But in a world where the actions of adults keep devolving into the tantrums of children, we, as Christians, should be a people of maturity and respect. Jesus calls us to a higher standard, to patience, kindness, and gratitude. That is how we let his light shine.