Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling
January 6th is an important date on our church calendar, and it signifies the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of Epiphany. From the Gospel of Matthew, Epiphany marks the point in Jesus’ early childhood when the magi (wise men) laid eyes on the Christ-child (Matthew 2:1-12). It was then that Jesus first appeared to the Gentile (non-Jewish) world.
Hence, we derive from the original Greek epi (on) + phaino (appearing) to form the transliteration: Epiphany. The primary definition refers to our church festival. However, it has developed a secondary meaning of personal revelation: “a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). In our biblical narrative, the magi experienced an epiphany when they gazed upon the king of the Jews. This manifestation of the Son of God inspired them to bow down, worship Him, and present gifts worthy of royalty to Him.
Still, for Matthew, the magi were merely the supporting cast. They served only to introduce us to the King of the Jews—a title bestowed on Jesus both at the beginning (Matthew 2:2) and end (Matthew 27:37) of His life. For God’s people, it was also a symbol of hope—of salvation from the enemy (Zechariah 9:9-13). Indeed, the wise men revealed three aspects of this Gospel of grace for us. First, the Good News is for all humanity. No one is beyond the reach of God’s salvation. Our Father graciously unveiled the King of the Jews to pagan astrologers who were as far from His favor as you and I were before our regeneration. Secondly, the Gospel teaches us how to discern and obey the will of God. The magi no longer needed a star to guide them. They would hear directly from God through a dream that they were to avoid Herod and find a new way home. Lastly, the Gospel calls us to action. God did not simply lead a band of intellectual stargazers to a coronation. He inspired the magi to go and seek the Christ-child, to bow down and worship Him joyfully, to give him the best from their treasures, and then to go home and share their revelation. In sum, Epiphany is about keeping up appearances, about revealing the Son of God in us that wise men and women might find him!