Happy Epiphany! The biblical story providing the backdrop for this day and season of the church year is the story of the Magi, astrologer-priests from the East who after identifying a star or comet they believed was connected to the birth of a Jewish king, came to Palestine to find him and pay their respects. While sometimes linked to the night of Jesus’ birth, the Bible doesn’t tell us when the Magi found Jesus. We’re simply told that Herod’s paranoia compelled him to have all the boys two years and younger killed in Bethlehem. So Herod’s impression seems to have been that Jesus was less than two years old.
Epiphany became a whole season of the church year already in the fourth century. The word epiphany comes from a Greek word that means to “reveal.” Specifically, Epiphany focuses on the fact that from the beginning Jesus was revealed to the Gentiles, a Hebrew word meaning “the nations.” Ours is a global faith and a global mission. That’s because Jesus is Lord over all creation. At his birth, he became part of that creation. It’s his, in every way now. We’re his. All humanity and all creation belong to him.
But instead of coming with blazing guns and rule of law, as a military commander or leader of an empire, Jesus came quietly and humbly. He’s known more for how he died than what he taught. He continues to encourage his followers to love their enemies and take up their own cross in showing his love for the world. Yes, the world is to be conquered – by love. As Jesus’ followers, we are disciples or students of how to love like Jesus. We’ve not figured out how to do that very well without Jesus himself helping us and living in us. But when that happens, Jesus says we become the light of the world, because he is the light of the world, and we are his body, the “revelation” of Jesus in our age and every age.
So instead of Epiphany being a call to arms it’s a call to love: “By this people will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” That’s a tall order in today’s political climate, especially on the heels of yesterday’s Georgia election, today’s Electoral College count, and our next president’s inauguration in two weeks. The atmosphere is tense, and made worse by a pandemic that is easing painfully and tragically into its second year.
And yet Jesus wants to unite people – people of all classes (including shepherds) and people of all races, tribes and nations (including Persian astrologers). Again, Jesus will have to help us, but he also needs us to help him. This whole thing started small – with a baby in a manger. May the Holy Spirit show us the little things we can do today to bless those he brings to our awareness and any who cross our path. May we show grace to one another, forgive each other, and give hope a chance.