O star of wonder, star of night, star with royal beauty bright –
Revelations and Epiphanies . .
Every few years the feast of the Epiphany – January 6 – falls on Sunday as it does this year. The church has long celebrated the feast as the day the Wise Men found Jesus and his parents after following the star for many days. Christmas cards and pageants often depict the creche with shepherds and their sheep AND Wise Men and their camels at the stable in Bethlehem at the same time. But tradition has separated the two visits, with the Magi’s arriving at the end of the twelve days of Christmas.
Epiphany isn’t a word we use much anymore. It means “revelation” or “manifestation.” The Magi’s visit to Jesus was seen as the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles – since the Wise Men were not Jews. The event foreshadowed how Christ would be the Savior of the whole world, not just the Jewish Messiah. For a long time, the celebration of this Epiphany was much bigger deal than Christmas because the growing Gentile church was so grateful to be included in God’s plan of salvation.
But Epiphany is more than one day – it is an entire season that stretches all the way to the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. During the Epiphany season, the Gospel readings contain little revelations or manifestations – unveilings, as it were, of who Jesus really is. One of the hymns for this season - #135 in
Hymnal 1982 –
contains a list of many of these unveilings:
manifested by a star by a star to the sages from afar; (The Epiphany itself)
Manifest at Jordan’s stream, Prophet, Priest, and King supreme; (Jesus’ baptism)
and at Cana, wedding guest, in thy Godhead manifest (changing water into wine)
Manifest in making whole palsied limbs and fainting soul (healing miracles)
Manifest on mountain height, shining in resplendent light (the Transfiguration)
In what ways will God be revealed to you during this season of revelation? What epiphanies will you experience?