On Epiphany

Star of Bethlehem

Today is Epiphany, the day Christians remember and celebrate the arrival of the Magi. We know the story. The three Wise Men . . . learned men . . . astronomers . . . saw a star, the Star of Bethlehem. The Star of David. They followed the star, and found the Christ Child. They worshipped Him, giving Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

And then, having been warned in a dream not to return to King Herod, they “went home by another way,” returning to their homelands. Persia? Arabia? India? Perhaps.

This we know: the tradition of Epiphany, the story of Epiphany is a story of Light. The star is the symbol of Epiphany, for by its light the Magi found the Christ Child.

Merriam-Webster tells me that an epiphany is:Epiphany

  • an appearance or a manifestation
  • a sudden perception of the essential meaning
  • an illuminating discovery

The story of Epiphany is the story of God made manifest in a tiny baby. It is the story of God made manifest to the Gentiles. It is the story of Wise Men from the East, meeting the baby, and then returning to their homes, with this story, this Good News.

In the “scope & sequence” of our Children’s Worship stories at my church, this time of year, a week or two after Christmas, usually finds us telling the story of Jesus and Mary and Joseph and Simeon and Anna: “Baby Jesus is Presented in the Temple.” If you’re familiar with how this story fits into the Church Year, you know that this event, forty days after Jesus’ birth, is remembered and celebrated on the Feast of Candlemas, February 2.

For us, the telling of the Candlemas story often falls close to Epiphany. This year, it actually fell on January 6. Because I have told this story so many times, right around this time of year, there are several things that often float around in my mind together, jostling around, influencing one another in lovely little ways.

Simeon and Anna were faithful Jews. They each had been waiting for the coming of the Messiah. God had promised to Simeon that he would not die before seeing the Christ, the Messiah. And one day . . . one ordinary day . . . forty days after a baby had been born in a stable to a young couple from Nazareth who were in Bethlehem for Caesar’s census, on this ordinary day, this ordinary young couple walked into the Temple with their baby.

For Simeon, God’s promise had been realized. For Anna, she would no longer wait for the Messiah. He had arrived. Anna declared this Good News to all those present in the Temple. Simeon praised God, saying:

“For my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:30-32)

A light.

A light for revelation.

A light for revelation to the Gentiles.

God made manifest. In the Christ Child.

God revealed in the Child, for the Gentiles. For the People of Israel.

This is how we see Him: Yahweh. This is how we know Him. How He is revealed. God, made manifest.

This Jesus, He is how we can know the Father. He reveals Him. He makes Him manifest.

Epiphany: God, made manifest in the Child.

Jesus: the Light for the whole world.

Jesus: the Salvation God has prepared in the presence of all peoples.

Salvation for Israel. Salvation for the Gentiles. Salvation for all peoples. Salvation, indeed, for the whole world, the whole earth.

Epiphany: Good News, indeed.

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