Thursday, January 6, 2011

Happy Epiphany!

OK, most of you didn't even know that it was Epiphany, let alone were celebrating it.  That's fine, since most of us didn't grow up following the traditional church calendar.  But this was a celebration of the manifestation of Jesus as the Son of God in the world.  In the western (Roman) tradition, from which Protestantism sprang, it commemorates the coming of the wise men--which supports my contention that the wise men were not at the birth!  Gentiles from a faraway land came and announced just who this child was to those in Israel who had ears to hear.  In the eastern (Byzantine, or Orthodox) tradition, it is a general celebration of all the ways Jesus was manifested as God in the flesh (they call it "theophany"--God manifestation).  This includes the birth, the Magi's visit, and Jesus' baptism by John. 

What was the point of this celebration?  The fact that God's redemption plan was NOT some sort of secret wisdom hidden from view, but that it was manifested.  Paul spoke of this in his "mystery" references (remember Ephesians 3:1-13)--God's plan of redemption hinted at in ages past now revealed in Christ Jesus.  He was to be a light dawning on the people walking in darkness (look up Isaiah 9:1-7).

If Advent begins the story with anticipation and waiting, and Christmas tells us the promise is fulfilled, then Epiphany becomes the unfolding of this promised light--the beginnings of the ministry of Jesus preaching the gospel of repentance.

John's introduction of his Gospel speaks of this powerfully:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it... (vv. 1-5)
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. (v. 9)
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (v. 14)
May your Epiphany day, and every day be one where the light of Christ shines to you, in you, and through you!