Epiphany: How Science Teaches Us to Preach Through the Season of Light

The Cosmic Horseshoe: A Horseshoe Einstein Ring from Hubble. Light is bent around the gravitational pull of a black hole. (Image from  ESA/Hubble & NASA )

The Cosmic Horseshoe: A Horseshoe Einstein Ring from Hubble. Light is bent around the gravitational pull of a black hole. (Image from ESA/Hubble & NASA)

An “epiphany” means “a moment of sudden revelation or insight” (Apple Dictionary).

Yet, paradoxically, for most of those who encountered Jesus, it wasn’t a “sudden” revelation to see him for who he truly was, but a gradual understanding of his true nature that unfolded over time.

Hence, the season of Epiphany is the season of light when we see the dawn break to grasp God-with-Us in the person of Jesus. It’s the season of progressive understanding that it is Jesus who is the long-expected Savior. Over the eight weeks of the season we are treated with episodes, each one pointing to the next, that reveal who Jesus is.

We start with the Magi arriving at his birthplace, which causes his mother Mary (who foreshadows the season) to “ponder all these things in her heart.” We move to Jesus’s baptism; to Jesus’s first miracle (turning water into wine); teaching in the synagogue back home in Nazareth (“Today this teaching has been fulfilled in your hearing.”) and to crowds (“love your enemies, do good to those who hate you”); the miracle of the catch of fish (“From now on you will fish for people.”), and finally, the Transfiguration.

During this season it’s hoped that we, too, have an epiphany—whether understanding happens in a flash, or the light dawns on us as slowly as a cold winter’s day in the far North.

To help us grasp the nature of epiphanies, it helps to go deeper into the myriad ways God sheds light on our understanding through the lens of other disciplines, specifically:

  • the physics of light itself

  • the realm of medicine—and what it means for one who has been blind to see again

  • the psychology of “eureka” moments

Each of these disciplines helps us better understand what was revealed by Christ.

For each concept, I offer a brief overview, a suggested reading, and ways to connect the concept to preaching so you better “see” how to guide your listeners to see the light of Christ in our midst.

Physics

Why Physics Helps Us Preach through Epiphany

We talk about the “light” of Christ throughout the season, but what do we mean by that? Light is necessary for our eyes to see, but how does it work? The nature of light is so surprising and mysterious, it’s no wonder it’s one of our favorite metaphors for understanding.

Learn More:

1) “How Light Works” by William Harris & Craig Freudenrich, Ph.D.

2) “Emitting and Absorbing Light — Radiation” Dummies Series

3) “Light Basics: Light travels much faster than sound” Science Basics

Preaching Epiphany Through the Physics of Light

1) No matter how hard we try, light can’t be pinned down. Neither can God.

2) Like studying light, just when you have a breakthrough of comprehension you get more questions.

3) What seems like a “miracle” because we don’t understand it, turns out to be more mysterious when we do.

4) We only see light because it is reflected off of created matter. We know who Christ is because his light was reflected off creation—including us—to reveal his divine nature.

Medicine

Why Medicine Helps Us Preach During Epiphany

We speak casually of being “blind” and then “seeing,” imagining it to be an easy and painless process. Instead, those who have been sightless teach us that learning to see is anything but a quick transition.

Learn More

1) “‘Crashing Through’ from Blindness to Sight” NPR

2) “What People Cured of Blindness See” By Patrick House August 28, 2014

Preaching Epiphany Through the Lens of Medicine

1) Learning to see the Divine can be a long process, and we might be better off that way.

2) Christ’s compassion extends past miracles to having compassion for the price we pay to be healed.

3) We may think miracles only happen in an instant, but the miracle of sight is no less miraculous if it takes years.

Neuroscience of Creativity

Why the Neuroscience of Creativity Helps Us Preach Through Epiphany

As noted above, an “epiphany” with a small “e” is a moment of understanding when the light bulbs turn on and we “get it.” The season of Epiphany shows us that we “get” who Christ is in constantly new ways. Since there’s no end to the divine revelations in store, why wouldn’t we want to prepare ourselves to see as many of them as possible?

Learn More

“How Do You, We, I Define Epiphany, Exactly? Some History, Definitions & Discoveries about Epiphanies” Elise Ballard, Jan. 25, 2011

2) “Science Of Epiphanies: When Problem Solving, It May Help To Trust Your Gut Rather Than Think Analytically.” Samantha Olson, Mar. 8, 2016

3) “What Happens To Your Brain When You’re Having A Brilliant Idea” Vivian Giang. Fast Company, Nov. 12, 2014

Preaching Epiphany Through the Lens of Creativity

1) Ironically, we might see God better by closing our eyes to the light.

2) Wondering who God is? Try more creativity and less analysis.

3) Asking God to help you solve a problem? Listen to your body. God might be communicating more through your gut than your head.

Spirit & Schedule

Free 28-day eCourse beginning January 9th

Sometimes our schedule is so overwhelming, we don’t have space to contemplate God’s mysterious nature. There’s no room for epiphanies because we’re constantly scrambling to get through our to-do’s.

This FREE independent study e-Course will guide you through a daily, 10-minute reflection about your calling and your use of time. By the end, you’ll have discerned a schedule that aligns with your gifting and spirit so that you have time for the sacred.

Sign up below to receive a daily email for the next 28 days. All you need is ten minutes and a pen. The course begins tomorrow.