Our focal scripture this week: Matthew 2: 2-12
2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’[b]”
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
On our bulletin this week, I called Sunday Epiphany, but in reality, it is not Epiphany. Let me explain
Epiphany or Three Kings’ Day, Or twelfth day in some denominations, is a Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation of God in his Son Jesus Christ. By revelation, we mean that he was revealed as something far more than a man, even a holy and good man – that he was the Messiah, a savior, the Son of God
In Western Christianity, the feast commemorates principally (but not solely) the visit of the Magi, (the wise men) to Christ, And their understanding that this child was something more. Because these wise men were Gentiles (Non-Jews), it also celebrates Christ’s first contact with Gentiles, signaling that he would be a savior for all people, not just Jews.
The traditional date for the feast is January 6, 12 days after Christ’s birth which was celebrated on Christmas Eve, with Christmas being the feast day after his birth. However, over time, the celebration dates shifted. It is held in some countries on the Sunday after January, Or, in some countries, even ON January 1st. Or anytime in between. So we could celebrate it Next Sunday, Or we could celebrate it Friday, Or, we can celebrate it today.
For hundreds of years, different churches argued over the “right day”, which is silly because the day doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because it’s a made up holiday, not a historical event like Christmas or Easter.
This is how it worked. A church or a group in a church would get an idea for a holiday or season, and it would work for them. Another church would steal the idea but maybe changed the date to make it work for them better. In fact, few of the feast dates became fixed until the 300’s AD, after Rome not only accepted Christianity, but made it their own. Rome hated disorder And for the next 2-300 years tried to standardize everything: Ritual, Beliefs. And dates.
So the date does not matter, but the idea that we should celebrate Epiphany, the revelation of who and what Christ is, does. No the date does not matter, and that may be because the New Testament has lots of places or revelation, or Epiphany. God reveals himself in a lot of ways
- The shepherds reached epiphany by the announced by angels, confirmed by what they saw, experienced and felt.
- The Angels coming to Joseph and Mary gave them their Epiphany
- The Disciples, by spending time with Jesus, came to an Epiphany of who and what he was.
- John the Baptist, on seeing the Holy Spirit descend and go to work in Christ, realized his cousin was something More.
- Those who were healed had their own Epiphany by what they experienced.
- Those who, after his death, had a feeling. As Luke 24:28-35 shows us: So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” …
- Paul had his Epiphany on the Road to Damascus.
- And then, of course, the wise men we read about in our focal scripture, came to their Epiphany through study, and later, Herod’s priests, through more study.
What we see is that there is no ONE way that Christ reveals who he is to his people. They got there by different journeys. Different paths. At different ages. In different circumstances
So what can we take from all these Epiphanies? What can we learn that might help us in our own Epiphany? Let me suggest a couple of things.
Epiphany is real. When something keeps happening, There is generally something to it. And what we see in the bible is a constant epiphany, a constant revealing of who and what God is, of who and what Christ is, so that we can have faith.
It happened in the Old Testament. To Abraham. To Moses. To Noah. To Samuel and David and Solomon. To the Prophets.
It happened after the time of the Gospels. We see it happen in Acts and the books after Christ’s life. At the Pentecost. In temples and in people’s homes and even in jails, as Paul and others complete their missionary journeys
We still see it today, as people come to God and open themselves to him.
So it is real
Secondly, it comes when we are ready
All these people in the bible who had their Epiphany had to make a journey to get there. They found Epiphany, the unveiling of Christ, in different places in their life journey. The disciples were searching. The shepherds were not. Matthew came to Epiphany at work, in his tax collectors booth, watching. The wise men were searching, but they did not know what exactly they were searching for. Paul was fighting the very thing that would bring him face to face with Christ.
The lesson for us is that Epiphany can come anywhere in our lives. It is easier if we are searching, But it can still come to us anytime, at any age, In any circumstance
This is good news for us if we are struggling with faith, perhaps living a good life in faith, but not having the Certainty of Jesus as Lord and Savior. It gives us hope that we can come to that place of certainty.
This is good news if we have hard circumstances, Epiphany can still come to us. It can come anytime. Paul was in Jail and let people to Epiphany. Those who needed healing were in helpless places, and it came. It is available to us anytime, anywhere. It HELPS if we are seeking, true. When we look, we see the hints laid out for us and we are more open, But it can come anytime, anywhere.
Last of All: Epiphany leaves us changed. The shepherds were changed. The wise men were changed. The healed were changed…. And not just physically. The disciples were changed. John the Baptist was changed. Paul was changed.
This is because Epiphany opens us to see God, to touch God, and be touched by him. And that is a powerful thing. It is a thing worth celebrating, which is what we do during the day and season of Epiphany.
And it is a thing worth seeking. And that is my prayer for you, that you will see Epiphany, and you will see the realness of Christ, and be touched by him.
Be Well. Travel wisely,