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The Hard Side of Epiphany

The good news of Jesus arouses the ugliness of sin and violence in the world.

From the editor:

January 6th is Epiphany—the day that many Western Christians commemorate the visitation of the Magi to Jesus. With that date just around the corner, we decided to run a classic Preaching Today audio sermon by Fred Craddock. We've never run it in transcript form before, so we hope you enjoy it. While the Magi get most of the attention on this day, we all know there is a darker character in the story: Herod. As Craddock points out—in his unique narrative style—Herod represents the "hard side of Epiphany." To listen as you follow along, click here.


This is January 6th. It's Epiphany. Liturgically, this means that we can, for a few Sundays before Lent, announce those marvelous passages that declare the revelation of the divine Son. We can announce those marvelous texts of the baptism of Jesus: "Thou art my Son," says the voice from heaven. We can announce the Transfiguration scene: "This is my Son, the Beloved. Hear him." Such marvelous, grand, glorious texts—a little breather before Lent. That's what it means liturgically.

I do not come from a very liturgical tradition, so I have to interpret Epiphany for our family. This is the day we take down the Christmas decorations. All of our decorations are based on the Gospel of Luke. There are Madonnas that we've picked up here and there in travel—of wood, of corn shocks, of brass, of glass. They're wrapped in tissue and put back in a box like you'd put away crystal or china because they're fragile. Our nativity scene is really cheap, but the kids made it years ago, so we put it out, and it gets prettier every year. All of this is from the scene in the Gospel of Luke: straw, a baby, Mary and Joseph, some animals. And we have ...

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Fred B. Craddock is Bandy distinguished professor of preaching and New Testament emeritus at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and author of Preaching (Abingdon Press).

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Audio Sample:

Sermon Outline:


I. It's hard to accept that the Good News has enemies

II. It's harder to accept that announcing the truth makes enemies

III. It's hardest to accept our responsibility to stand up for the truth