We now begin the third season in the Church following the life of Jesus Christ. We have gone through the preparation for his birth, Advent, the birth of Jesus, Christmas and now the journey of discipleship, growth, Epiphany.
Epiphany means “manifestation” (to show or to make known, or to reveal) and is the official Season for proclaiming the identity of Christ. Epiphany begins at sundown the day before January 6, the day commemorating the Wise Men coming to Bethlehem to worship the Baby Jesus. Epiphany is a season of worship, as the whole world follows the Wise Men to find and honor Jesus. It is the season of revelation of understanding who He is. Green, the color of the season, signifies growth.
As with most aspects of the Christian liturgical calendar, Epiphany has theological significance as a teaching tool in the church. The Wise Men or Magi who brought gifts to the child Jesus were the first Gentiles to acknowledge Jesus as “King” and so were the first to “show” or “reveal” Jesus to a wider world as the incarnate Christ. This act of worship by the Magi, which corresponded to Simeon’s blessing that this child Jesus would be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32), was one of the first indications that Jesus came for all people, of all nations, of all races, all times, and that the work of God in the world would not be limited to only a few.
The Epiphany season is now observed as a time of focusing on the mission of the church in reaching others by “showing” Jesus as the Savior of all people. It is also a time of focusing on Christian community and fellowship, especially in healing the division of prejudice and bigotry that we all too often create between God’s children.
The season is from four to nine weeks, from the Feast of the Epiphany (Jan. 6) through the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The length of the season varies according to the date of Easter. The gospel stories of this season describe various events that manifest the divinity of Jesus. The coming of the Magi is celebrated on the Epiphany. The Baptism of our Lord is observed on the Sunday after Epiphany. The gospels for the other Sundays of the Epiphany season describe the wedding at Cana, the calling of the disciples, and various miracles and teachings of Jesus. The Last Sunday after the Epiphany is always devoted to the Transfiguration. Jesus’ identity as the Son of God is dramatically revealed in the Transfiguration gospel, as well as the gospel of the baptism of Christ. We are called to respond to Christ in faith through the showing of his divinity recorded in the gospels of the Epiphany season.
Father, we thank you for revealing yourself to us in Jesus the Christ, we who once were not your people but whom you chose to adopt as your people. As ancient Israel confessed long ago, we realize that it was not because of our own righteousness, or our own superior wisdom, or strength, or power, or numbers. It was simple because you loved us, and chose to show us that love in Jesus.
May we, through your guidance and our faithful obedience, find new avenues in ways that we have not imagined of holding the Light of your love so that it may be a Light of revelation for all people, through Jesus Christ your Son. Amen
For many Christian church traditions, the season of Epiphany extends until Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent leading to Easter.