One of the cool things about being a “liturgical tradition” is that we mark the passing of time with church “seasons.” Often, these seasons correlate with seasons of the year and/or “seasons” of Christian life. The easiest season in which to see this correlation is Pentecost: the “green season”; a season where the focus is on growing in faith; a season that happens during spring and summer. Cool, right?
We have just entered the season of Epiphany, the season following Christmas. (The Christmas season is another that has a pretty obvious correlation in the world. 😊 ) The word “epiphany” can mean a revelation, manifestation, or sudden intuitive realization. The church uses the word to describe the way the divine nature of Jesus was made known to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi. And so January 6th has become known, in the Church, as Epiphany Sunday when that revelation was made known to travelers from the East.
Many traditions recognize several other “epiphanies” as part of this season. This week in worship we celebrate the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John the Baptizer. Early theologians emphasized two themes for this celebration: 1) Christ serves as a model for Christian baptism, the sacrament that makes frequent appearances throughout the New Testament, and 2) by being baptized in the Jordan, Jesus has set apart all the waters of creation as baptismal water. The big manifestation (or revelation) that happens is the voice of God coming out of heaven to proclaim Jesus as the “beloved Son” and the Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove. In coming weeks, we see further manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit in Jesus (another epiphany) as he changes water into wine at a wedding celebration.
If you consider that an “epiphany” can also be a “sudden intuitive realization” – an “Aha!” or “Now I get it!” moment – then it might be time well spent to take a moment to ponder where God is being made known in your life. Is it in the casual and supportive word you got from a friend? Is it in the impulse of generosity that strikes you out of nowhere? Is it in the unexpected moment of peace during a busy day or the sudden realization that you are, in a particular moment, happy?
The Epiphany season brings us clear, defined moments in Scripture where Jesus comes to us and the love and grace of God are clearly manifest in the story. Nothing in Scripture suggests that those moments don’t happen anymore. I believe that they are happening all the time and all around us. Can we pull our eyes away from the bright sparkly things of the world and see God at work in our lives? Can we tune out the bells and whistles and hear the Word spoken by our neighbor? It’s hard, I know. Will God in Christ come to us and work in our lives even if we can’t quite pull our attention away from all that glitters? Absolutely. God is working in your life. Seeing it, experiencing the epiphany, is an extra blessing. May that blessing be yours, today and always.