Each year on January 6 in the Church Calendar, after the twelve days of Christmas, is the celebration of Epiphany. Christ’s coming to this earth as a child and becoming like us is much more than a baby in a manger. Epiphany helps to bring a vision and understanding of God’s glory to all kinds of people of the world.
Epiphany means “manifestation” or “appearance.” The event most closely associated with this season is the visit of the Magi to Jesus. Included in this time of the year between the seasons of Christmas and Lent is a special emphasis on the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus. The great celebration and focus of these weeks is that salvation is not limited to Israel but extends to the Gentiles, as well.
Every season in the Christian Year has its particular angle of grace. With Epiphany we see that one of the most scandalous truths of Christianity is that God graces common ordinary people who seem far from God with the gift of Jesus. God grants repentance that leads to life for all kinds of people no matter what their race, ethnicity, class, or background. It is a wondrous and astounding spiritual truth that God’s gracious concern is not limited to a certain type of person or a particular group of persons.
Grace is and ought to be the guiding factor in how we interact with people. Losing sight of grace leads to being critical and defensive. Like King Herod of old, a graceless person becomes enamored with earthly power and control. But embracing grace leads to the humility to see the image of God in people very different from ourselves. Like the Apostle Peter, who learned in a vision to bring the gospel to non-Jews, old legalisms begin to be worn away so that people from all walks of life can have access to Jesus and his gracious saving and healing ministry. Grace brings down barriers and causes us to do away with unnecessary distinctions between others. Our appropriate response to such a grace is to glorify God for his marvelous and amazing work.
It is a gracious and merciful reality that the Magi, or Wise Men, who were really pagan astrologers, were directed to the Messiah. A light was provided to lead them to Jesus. Apart from God’s care and intervention they would have remained in darkness. And it is no less true for people today. This old broken world is wrapped in darkness. All kinds of people have no light at the end of the tunnel of their lives for hope and new life. But the gospel of Jesus Christ brings that light to those walking around with no ability to see. Jesus, in his teaching ministry in the Sermon on the Mount, exhorted his followers not to hide their light but to let it shine for all to see.
Sometimes, maybe oftentimes, the best way to bring resolution to our own troubles and problems is through helping others make sense of their lives through the gracious light of Christ so that they can see an appearance, an epiphany, of what their lives can be in the gracious rule of the kingdom of God.
As we celebrate Epiphany and journey with Jesus through his earthly upbringing and into his gracious ministry to people, let us keep vigilance to not let our light grow dim. Instead, let us hunger and thirst after Christ’s righteousness so that our joy is full and our light is bright.