The Transfiguration from today’s Gospel (Mark 9:2-9) describes a moment when a few disciples witness a remarkable sight: Jesus seems different, his clothes become a dazzling white, with an unearthly glow. The reader is immediately drawn to the mountain-top experience of Moses and how his appearance is changed.
Suddenly, Moses (closely associated with the Law) and Elijah (the prophet’s prophet) appear with Jesus. Jesus, who is said to be the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets is seen, here at least, to be on par with Moses and Elijah. Peter realizes the significance of the moment and doesn't want it to end. He offers to build dwellings. In a way he’s saying, let’s just stay here and forget about the rest of the world and all its troubles.
As quickly as the vision appeared it disappeared and Jesus and his earthly companions had to make their way down from the mountain, back to the valley, back to reality, back to the world and all its troubles.
Peter acted all too human, expressing the hope that his mountain-top experience would not come to an end. But it has to. Life is not lived on mountain tops. Life is lived in the valley of the shadow of death. We need mountain-top experiences for sure. We should seek them out. Our Sunday morning worship can function in this way. But at some point the coffee runs out, the lights are flicked off and we return to our life. Just remember, Moses and Elijah disappear. Jesus doesn't stay on the mountain top either.
Jesus returns to the valley, to where we live. The Christmas proclamation of Emmanuel, God with us, isn't only true for the twelve days of Christmas, it is a truth for the whole year and every year. God’s Holy Spirit is present with us every day, in the world, with us in all our troubles.