Sunday 6th January we celebrate the Epiphany
Isaiah 60: 1-6. "Then you shall see and be radiant, your heart shall thrill and rejoice" The poetry of Isaiah articulates the feeling one has when the truth of the gospel becomes a personally owned truth.
Ephesians 3: 1-12. Paul writes how that knowledge of the gospel was made known to him by revelation. By this revelation Paul came to perceive more of the mystery of Christ in whom there are "boundless riches"
Matthew 2: 1-12. The story of the visit of the Magi. Magi stands out as the sole foreign word amongst all the Greek. These were Persian Zoroastrian priests who were also expecting a messiah to be born of a virgin with their own religion.
An Epiphany is a great or sudden realization that something is “true” and having had that realization, it changes you.
Because truth only has the power of truth when it becomes true for you and is personally owned.
You see things differently and understand life differently after one of these sudden realizations. There is a before and after.
My first epiphany came in my mid-thirties when the existence of God Himself became a personally accepted fact.
I’d been aware of the concept of God all my life, but I remember well accepting that fact and realising that I believed it very well. I was a labourer on the night shift in a cold store when it suddenly hit me that
“I believe in God!!” and I kept rolling that phrase around in my mind and just revelling in this new unexpected turn of events.
“I believe in God” and weakly trying afterwards to work out what this meant for my life.
I wasn’t a Christian. I had moved from agnostic to theist overnight. What the existence of God meant to me and what kind of God did I believe in came later.
Jesus' brother James in the NT writes (2: 19-21)
“You believe in God. You do well but even the demons believe in God!”
Belief in God only becomes truly effective when you discover what and who this God is. What is He like and what does He want?
It may be harder to convince someone that Jesus is the Son of God when you are not even fully convinced about the existence of God in the first place.
But as Christians our monumental task is to do both at the same time and it is made easier by the fact that Jesus' life deeds and words are exactly what you'd expect God's word made flesh to be like!
In Jesus we have a first-hand insight – a revelation – of what God is truly like.
It is an entirely positive insight into the mind, the purposes, the nature, and the will of God.
The glory – the true worth and being- of God is revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.
The reason we know that God is love, that God wills our healing and salvation, that God wants to give us eternal life, that God is with us always through thick and thin is because of Jesus.
I think it was a past Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey who once said. “God is as Jesus is”.
In Jesus we have revealed that that God the Father has a plan for humanity and there is a rationale and purpose to the universe. Therefore He has a plan and purpose for your life and all our lives.
The three gifts brought in homage to Jesus by the Magi – Zoroastrian priests from Persia – have always been understood as a revelation about the true identity of Jesus and His significance for the world.
Gold as for a king or Lord. The significance for all of us of that gift is; have we accepted Jesus as king or Lord of your life? Is He Your mentor, your confidante, your confessor, your exemplar, the one you give your ultimate allegiance to, transcending all other claims on your allegiance that comes from state or culture or race or religion, friends or family.
Apparently Jesus says “follow me” 87 times in the Bible.
Frankincense reveals the priestly and divine nature of Jesus. He is your direct access to God and His grace. No other intermediary is necessary. In and through Christ you see, feel, and hear the voice of God.
The entire Eucharistic prayer is a prayer directed to the Father through Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Myrrh was used to dress corpses in the first century. Myrrh indicates that Jesus’ death will have universal significance.
The healing and salvation of the whole world would be indicated, effected, by the sacrificial death of Jesus. Not a wasted death. A death like any other death, yes, but a death on behalf of all creation to bring us all back into a loving relationship with God – to bring us back to the centre and source of all things by forgiving all our shortcomings and failings.
And through that death, on the third day, the loving, life filled purposes of God for His son and all creation would be revealed in His resurrection.
He wills that you enjoy eternal life.
In Jesus we have had God revealed to us. He is the final revelation of God and as Christians everything, including the Bible must be interpreted through the lens of Jesus.
We see everything through Jesus tinted spectacles.
It is through Jesus that we understand that God loves the world, that God wants to save the world, and is willing to sacrifice Himself to do so in the ultimate mystery of the crucifixion and resurrection.
This is the good news for all people that we are commissioned to tell the world about.
This is the Christian Epiphany. That Jesus is the self-revelation of God. God is as Jesus is.
Point people towards Jesus and you have pointed someone to God and His fullness and glory.