Ephesians 3:1-12

            On this first day of celebrating Epiphany (which means “manifestation” or “appearing”) it is quite appropriate to drink in the wonderful teaching of the Apostle Paul on the subject of mystery.  The term “mystery” as used by Paul is not so much like reading a Sherlock Holmes novel in the sense that we need to do some detective work to solve a murder.  Mystery for Paul is something that was once hidden or obscure, but is now revealed. 
            The great mystery that lurked in the shadows of the Old Testament but is now fully revealed in the New Testament is, in Paul’s words, “that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”  Perhaps that truth come to light does not seem very bright or astounding to you and I.  Yet, back in Paul’s day, this was momentous.  Yes, most Jews understood that many Gentiles could and would come to worship God, but none of them saw it coming that those Gentiles would actually be completely grafted into life with them and be formed into a new society, the church, the community of the redeemed.  Jew and Gentile would cease to be separate peoples and would now become fellow heirs as one people in Christ.
            As non-Jews, maybe we take for granted that we believe and are full participants in Christ and full-fledged members of Christ’s Body, the Church.  But because of the faithful ministry of people like Paul and Peter and the other original apostles, the vast majority of believers throughout the world are us Gentiles.  This is, then, to be a day of celebration and gratitude that God has included us through the person and work of the Lord Jesus.  No longer are we shrouded in mystery.  We share in Christ and are partakers in all the good promises of God.  Let us, therefore, punctuate this day and season with thanksgiving to God for his gracious outreach to us.
            Revealing God, you have included us in Christ by grace through faith so that your wisdom might now be made known to all.  Thank you for your gracious wooing us to your church, and giving us your very great and precious promises to us in Jesus Christ.  Amen.


            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.