Discovering Spiritual Truths & Celebrating God's Grace in the Every Day Happenings of Life.
Today is an oft-forgotten day in the church year: the Epiphany of Our Lord. But what does this mean? In December we celebrated Advent, a time where we look forward to Jesus’ coming—both on Christmas morning and on the Last Day. Now we move into the season of Epiphany. “Epiphany” means literally “to manifest or appear.” Epiphany is a word that communicates a sudden appearance or a showing forth. It is a word that communicates that something has been presented… that God has emphatically and incarnationally shown up into the very world He created. No more waiting. God is here, now and in the flesh. And although this season might not receive as much commercial (or religious) attention as Christmas, the church has been celebrating Epiphany since the 2nd century. Epiphany is one of the oldest seasons in the Christian Church Year, second only to Easter. This season of light emphasizes Jesus’ manifestation (or epiphany) as both God and man. When the Gentile magi come to worship Jesus, they show that everyone now has access to God. Now all people, Jew and Gentile, can come to God’s holy temple to worship because Jesus is the new temple: the Word made flesh.
The Epiphany season begins with the celebration of the visit of the Magi—an acknowledgement of the arrival of the Lord’s great King of kings. Throughout the season Epiphany stresses the “why” of Christmas. It is not enough to know about the birth of Jesus; this season declares that the reason for Christmas is God coming to reveal His great love and plan of salvation for you. All of the incredible stories emphasized throughout Epiphany season (the Magi, the Holy Innocents, Jesus in the temple, Jesus’ baptism, Transfiguration) remind us that the Almighty and powerful Creator of the world steps down from His lofty throne as an act of compassion and mercy. Epiphany essentially sets the stage for the Lent. He comes down to redeems us. He comes down to showcase His love.
That’s why today is an important day. Epiphany reminds us that Jesus comes for everyone. Not just the religious elite. Not just those with the proper last name or ethnicity. When the wise men show up; they are just as unexpected guests as those shepherds and stable animals who met Jesus that first Christmas night. They were not Jewish. They were Gentiles, outsiders from pagan nations. They were not part of the chosen people of Israel; they were not part of the covenant community. Yet immediately after they arrive at the house, they bow down and worship before Jesus. Author Chad Bird wrote: “In these worshiping Gentiles, we begin to see the true flowering of a promise that was made many centuries before. God had told old Abraham that, through him, God would bless all nations: "in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen. 12:3). The rest of the Old Testament, however, seems narrowly to focus upon only one nation, Israel. But God had a plan—a plan that was finally coming to fruition. These Gentiles are the first fruits of many other Gentiles (including me and you) who will bow before the King of the Jews, be adopted into the new covenant community, and be heirs of the promises made to Abraham.”
Epiphany vividly reveals the reason the Son of God came among us, as one of us. He has come as the fulfillment of God’s promises to send a Messiah who would save all people—without any kind of exception—from sin, and its condemning and life-controlling power. He came to restore all kinds of people everywhere to the presence and power of God. He came to restore you. It all begins beneath a star, with Gentiles from the east, confessing that the son of Mary is the Son of God. We echo that confession. In him, we are blessed by the Father. In Jesus, we see the epiphany of the heart of our God.
“Arise, shine for your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1)