Happy New Year, since I didn’t get a chance to say that to many of you!
And Happy Dreikönigsfest (feast of the three kings)! Or, if you prefer, Happy Epiphany! (The Christmas season is officially over, so now you can think about taking down your tree!)
Epiphany is not an every-day-sort-of word, especially outside of churches this time of year. But one of my former supervisors from another life, who happened to be an atheist, used to say rather frequently, “I’ve had an epiphany!”
What I understood him to mean is that he had had a new idea, or a new clarity of thought. If he had been a cartoon character, I imagine a light bulb would have appeared above his head, as an indication that he had suddenly understood something more clearly.
Epiphany means manifestation or revelation, and today we celebrate the epiphany or the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, especially as we find it recorded in the story of the magi or wise men. The wise men are those figures that have somehow inserted themselves into the nativity scene, though I think (or hope) most people realize their part in the story doesn’t actually come for another two years or so following the manger. (There is probably no need to say here that there might even have been more than three!)
In any case, in the coming of non-Jewish magi to honor and worship the baby Jesus, the mystery of God to include all the nations in His plan of salvation becomes clearer. It was not a new idea. The gospel according to Abraham (found in Genesis 12) declares that all peoples of the earth would be blessed through his seed. This declaration finds its fulfillment as God’s plan is unfolded in the narrative of the traditional gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Their message is that Jesus, God’s Messiah, has finally come and has revealed Himself to Jew and Gentile alike.
Accordingly, the Gospel lessons appointed for the Epiphany and the Sundays immediately following the Epiphany are taken from each of the four Gospels.
If we had held service today, we would have looked at Matthew 2 and the coming of the wise men. Tomorrow is the first Sunday after the Epiphany, so we shall look at Luke 2 and the appearance of 12-year-old Jesus in the temple. Next week, the second Sunday after the Epiphany, we will consider from Mark 1 the baptism of Jesus. (I should note that depending upon which prayer book is followed, the gospels appointed for weeks one and two may be reversed.) And finally (as there are only three Sundays in Epiphany this year before we enter the pre-Lenten season), we shall look at John 2 and Jesus’ first miracle–turning water to wine. In each of these texts, Jesus is manifest in a new way.
I pray as we look together anew at these familiar texts, that light bulbs might appear figuratively over our own heads, as we personally experience a new epiphany of the Lord through His Spirit applying truth more clearly in our hearts and minds.
Hope to see you Sunday!