Since at least the 4th century, Christians have set aside Jan. 6 for the celebration of the “Epiphany,” a word that literally means the “appearing” of Jesus, God who comes to us by taking on our own flesh and blood.
Think of Epiphany as another type of Christmas, one especially meant for all the world’s peoples. In Epiphany, Christians continue to believe and share the truth that Jesus is not just for those persons with the “right” family tree, impeccable credentials, insider connections, or national citizenship. Jesus is mankind’s Savior and King. He’s for everyone. He’s for you.
Right now, you might feel like Christmas is over and out. But really, it’s only just begun; God has let loose His Word. No back-room secrets here! In the Gospel of Matthew (2:1-12), God places a star — a grand, massive sign in the sky — to send a message to the Magi, those Wisemen-astrologers from the East: the Savior, the King has been born in Bethlehem, a merely unremarkable Jerusalem suburb. Jesus is not just for people of Israelite bloodline. Jesus is for everyone, including these foreigners who then travel a great distance — bearing precious gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh — to receive for themselves what God has given to all mankind.
Back in Jerusalem, another “king” — really only an imposter — wasn’t about to put up with any of this so-called “good news.” Herod was a murderer, a dictatorial powerbroker, a manipulator of the populace. There was no place for a competitor in Herod’s self-centered calculus. Bleary-eyed from their long roadtrip, the breathless Magi made polite inquiry: “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” The imposter didn’t have a clue. (See what happens when you don’t read your Bible?) Herod called in consultants, who pointed to the right place by way of Old Testament prophet Micah: “And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”
God’s star and His eternal Word are rather effective guideposts, are they not? He desires that no one be lost along the way. He wants the whole world, together with these foreigner wise guys, to know about His Son. God wants the whole world to meet Him, to receive His promises, His hope, His peace, His forgiveness of all sins, His final and absolute reconciliation in the true faith and worship of the world’s only Savior and King.
In this splendid Gospel mystery, these Magi are you. (Herod-type imposters have no lasting place in God’s plan.) Their Epiphany is your Epiphany. Through His starry Word alone, God opens your eyes, makes you wise beyond understanding, and opens you to His gifts of unmerited grace, even while you open and offer your gifts to Him — the best of what you have — in the worship of Jesus, your Lord and Redeemer.
After worshiping Jesus in Bethlehem awhile, the Magi eventually went back home by another way. It was a new way, Jesus’ way, an intentional way around the imposter Herod and his evil plans. That’s your Epiphany with Jesus, or rather, what happens when He “epiphanies” Himself to you. Christmas hype and hoopla may be gone for now, but you are called to go back to your life, your vocation, your family, your community by a different way, the way of faith in the promises of God in Jesus Christ that extend from Bethlehem to the farthest corners of the earth, to every human being. Such promises shine like stars in a present darkness, perfectly reflecting Him who is God of God — and Light of Light — for all people.