Epiphany: The Appearing of God in Jesus Christ and Through Us
One day when the crowds were being baptized, Jesus himself was baptized. As he was praying, the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit, in bodily form, descended on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, "You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy."
I want to spend one more day reflecting on the baptism of Jesus because millions of Christians focus on this historical event today. January 6 is the Christian holiday of Epiphany. The word "Epiphany" comes from the Greek word epiphaneia, which means "appearing" or "manifestation." In Western Christian tradition (Roman Catholic and Protestant), Epiphany is a day to remember the visit of the Magi to Jesus (Matt. 2:1-12). Among Eastern Orthodox Christians, the sixth of January is a day to recall the baptism of Jesus. Both Western and Eastern celebrations of Epiphany focus on the "appearing" of God in Jesus Christ.
The visit of the Wise Men symbolizes the appearing of the Savior to the Gentiles in particular. The baptism of Jesus was his public manifestation as the Son of God. The title "Son of God" in Jewish was a royal one, reserved for the king of Israel (see Psalm 2, for example). Yet Jesus was the Son of God, not only because of his unique Messianic calling, but also because of his unique relationship with God the Father.
On the holiday of Epiphany, it is appropriate for us to consider how God makes himself known in the world today. To be sure, the heavens declare God's glory and the Scripture encapsulates his truth. But God has chosen to manifest himself today largely through his people, through you and me, and through all of those who are his followers. It's hard to imagine a higher calling than this one: to make the truth and love of God known in the world today.
How can we do this? Most of us will not be called to the particular ministry of evangelism. We won't be preaching revivals or filling stadiums. Yet we can communicate the good news by the things we say and the way we live each day. Since the core of the gospel is a story of God's grace, we can illustrate this story by treating others graciously, whether at work or at home. And since the good news centers in the love of God, our love for others will help them to understand and receive this love.
Today, as we celebrate Jesus who came as the light of the world, may we also remember his words in the Sermon on the Mount: "You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father."
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When you picture the baptism of Jesus, what thoughts or feelings come to mind? How has God made himself known to you? How might you be a reflection of God's light in the places you live and work?
PRAYER: All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, because you are the Son of God, the Messiah, the King of Israel and, indeed, the whole world.
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, because you are the unique Son of God, beloved by the Father, the one in whom he delights.
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, because you are the light of the Lord, the one who radiates with divine truth and love.
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, because you have called me to be light in this world, to shine your light through my works and words.
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, whom I worship today as God in the flesh, and whom I serve with my whole life. Amen.