January 6, 2021
Piney Flats UMC
The word "epiphany" comes from the ancient Greek word epiphaneia, meaning “manifestation” or “appearance of divine power in a person or event.
There are many secular definitions for the word epiphany: major, life-changing revelations that have had the greatest impact on our lives; an illuminating discovery; insight gained from a revealing scene or moment; a moment of sudden or great revelation that usually changes you in some way; a magic moment that impacts you and changes you forever and you can remember it as vividly as you experienced it; a moment that changes the lens through which you view your life; that moment where you know your life is never going to be the same.
Of all the definitions I have encountered, the following from the publication “Sermon Writer” fully captures the essence of the meaning of Christian Epiphany:
“The word epiphany means an appearance or manifestation, particularly of a divine being—or an illuminating discovery, especially one that comes unexpectedly.
Epiphany marks the first manifestation of Jesus to the Gentiles. It signals that God loves Gentiles as well as Jews—that God’s plan of salvation includes Gentiles too . . . It would be a dead issue if Epiphany were only about the inclusion of Gentiles in the church. That is hardly the case, however. Epiphany is much more. It is a celebration of the breaking down of dividing walls—the end of hostilities between groups of people (Ephesians 2:14). Epiphany challenges us to reconsider all the people whom we see as outside the pale—outside the boundaries of God’s love. It challenges us to abandon our tribalism (racially, nationally, denominationally, etc.) and to expand our tents to welcome even those whom we would prefer not to love. It is a burning issue, because loving those outside our tribe is difficult—but Christ makes it possible. That is the Epiphany message.”
In few words, the summary definition of Epiphany, an event to Christians, is the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (from Matthew 2:1–12).
Our recognition of Epiphany today originated in 2nd century Egypt and is one of the oldest known Christian celebrations. Most of the Christian world marks the season of Epiphany beginning on Wednesday, January 6 and ends on February 16, 2021, the day before Lent. The evening preceding Epiphany is called Twelfth Night. The time between December 25 and January 6 is known as the Twelve Days of Christmas.
The Scripture for today’s devotional comes from the following:
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.
Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses' arms.
Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD.
When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Isaiah projects the joy, the majesty of the revelation of the Glory of God. His unrestrained exuberance infects the listener. His prophesy extends the love of an infinite God to all his creation. He shows the adoration and worship that will emerge from all peoples. Then, amazingly, almost 700 years later, the Apostle Matthew, a companion to our Lord Jesus, records in his history the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy, capturing the resounding joy of the experience.
This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles-- for surely you have already heard of the commission of God's grace that was given me for you, and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ.
In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Other than the proclamation to the Gentiles of inclusion in the Kingdom of God, included the January 6 reverence of Epiphany, my most vivid thoughts of an epiphanic experience is the incredible encounter by Paul on the Damascus Road. In some ways, this is equally important to the extension of God’s Love to all humankind. It reflects action beyond acceptance, both on the part of Jesus’s divine intervention and, as a result, Paul’s future successful mission to the Gentiles.
Beyond the boundary of words, Epiphany, Jesus’ birth, baptism and miracles, His death and resurrection - all combine to declare God’s unrestrained Love for all humankind.
Our renewal and personal Epiphany is available now. God’s presence made known to us through Jesus Christ is eternal, He is real, he is there, he is here.
As declared by Psalm 19:1-4
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech; they use no words; no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.