Today Osheta talked about one of her favorite church holidays called Epiphany, and what it means to her. Epiphany honors the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as told by the story of the Magi in Matthew 2:1–12. To Osheta, it is about how Jesus shows up for many different people in many different ways.
Epiphany as a word means “an aha moment.” But for church it has deeper meaning, referring to the 40 days between now and Ash Wednesday — it honors the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as told by the story of the Magi in Matthew 2:1–12.
This is one of Osheta’s favorite church holidays because it’s a time when she thinks about the way Jesus showed up for her and lets her know he is relevant (and so is she).
Epiphany is based on the Story of the Magi, in Matthew 2:1-12
There are three lessons that Osheta takes from this story that she wanted to share with us.
1) We Can Come Just as We Are
Most of us only know the Magi from the We Three Kings Christmas song. The Magi were scholars & religious men from Persia (modern day Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan & Syria). They were shown a light from God and realized what it meant, and followed it. To put this into perspective, these three Magi came hundreds of miles to worship a Jewish king in a different country and different culture. These Magi were outsiders.
Osheta has always felt like an outsider in the church (which for her have tended to be mostly white). She thought she had to ignore her blackness in order to get along in a white church. So this Epiphany story for her means she can show up as she is. God loves her including her brown skin.
She felt strongly about this so she started to want to talk about race in church. People responded to her, “why does everything have to be about race?” Her answer is because race hostility in our country is real. If someone brings up race, they are being vulnerable and inviting you into their journey. They are not being divisive. And if we believe that Jesus tore down every wall, then our kingdom mission is to accept people exactly as they are.
She shared a quote from a book she read recently that she thought spoke to this:
“It is clear from scripture that God is the creator of nations and the author of the flow of history— the first multiculturalists, so to speak. The very idea of culture begin with God.”
Dr Richard Twiss, “One Church Many Tribes.”
Come as you are has been hard for Osheta to internalize. So something she started to do is ask: “Do I see people that look like me in the story of Jesus?” And that’s when she saw that the Magi look like people from every nation — this is multiculturalism at the foot of Jesus.
“Us and them” is the way of the world — it is how we build societies and groups. Your race, sexual orientation, whether or not you have kids, mental health issues, we all have ways that we feel like outsiders. Epiphany says come as you are.
2) Come and Know Your Worth.
Scholars have talked at length about the meaning behind the specific gifts of Frankincense and Myrrh that they brought to Jesus. But the point of these gifts to Osheta is they came and brought *something* with them.
Sometimes we feel like we don’t have anything to give. The first time she was exposed to Epiphany was a time in her life that she had received stunning generosity. She had received an email invitation to come to an Epiphany party. They said it was about Jesus showing up for people, and the woman that hosted it worked at a homeless shelter, so she said to bring along a new pair of shoes and socks, since that’s something they have great need for at the shelter. At this time, Osheta was very poor and could barely afford shoes for her own kids. She was already going to an organization for the poor to get gifts and shoes for her own kids that year. So at that organization, she asked if she could have more than the number of shoes she needed for her own kids so that she could bring something to this party. They let her, and it was a hit because most guests had brought adult shoes, and Osheta was the only one who brought kids shoes.
The generosity of the Magi had a ripple effect, just as our own does — some speculate that the gifts the Magi brought were what allowed Mary and Joseph to flee and protect Jesus from Herod. Anything we bring the Lord will use, and this makes us want to give more.
3) Come and See, Go and Tell.
As Christ reveals himself to us we are changed. The Magi did not just stay with Jesus in that space. They went back to their home country. A big part of our job, too, is to come and meet Jesus then go out and tell the world.
Osheta told us a story from shortly after having one of her children when she had severe postpartum depression. She felt worthless and incompetent and actually attempted suicide. Her husband ended up coming home early just as she was doing this and stopped her. He wasn’t sure what to do so he called their pastor who came straight over and prayed there on the floor with her. They said they would not give up on her. This told her that Jesus sees her and loves her.
She had some shame about this (especially since her dad is a psychologist), and debated whether or not to share this story in her book. But she did, and not long after she opened up about it, she started to get emails hearing from other mothers who were helped by her openness, and sharing similar issues.
Jesus showed up for her right where she was. She chose to go and tell, and we should do the same.
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