Thursday, January 6, 2011

Happy Epiphany!

Another season has arrived. The twelfth day of Christmas was yesterday (yes, we celebrated it, although we didn't have twelve lords a-leaping), and today--January 6--is the Feast of the Epiphany. This obscure day is actually one of my favorite Christian holidays, so I look forward to celebrating it tonight in worship at my church.

So what does one celebrate today? Traditionally the Western church celebrated the appearance of Jesus to the wise men, while the Eastern church celebrates the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. God's glory--the fullness of God's presence and the theme of this season--is revealed in both instances.

Matthew's gospel alone tells the story of the Magi traveling from the East to Bethlehem to worship Jesus. For Matthew, the narrative symbolizes the revelation of God's glory to the Gentiles, expanding the community of faith beyond the Jewish people. (For Matthew, these are the first converts to Jesus outside of Judaism, which means that our ancestors in the faith are probably Arabs or Persians, and that the church was globalized from its inception. Next time we want to convert Asians or Middle Easterners to Christianity, we might pause to ponder this point.)

Paul, the evangelist to the Gentiles, understood the point of Matthew's story, and that's why the church reads Ephesians 3:1-12 tonight. As Paul describes the mystery in verse 6, "the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel."

The Eastern Church treated this day as a celebration of God's glory being revealed through the baptism of Jesus. This, too, is a mystery revealed: a dove descends and God's voice declares that this is his son, with whom He is well pleased. Focusing on this mystery, the Orthodox call this the Feast of the Theophany (the revelation of God). And that is the core claim of Christian belief: the fullness of God and the fullness of humanity is revealed in Jesus of Nazareth.

The entering of Fullness into time changes everything (not just our approach to globalization). As I ponder this mystery again today, I am glad to be on the journey of another Christian year.

P.S. My favorite reporter at our local newspaper published an informative little story on Epiphany today. Nice to see that solid local journalism is alive in our medium-sized town!

No comments:

Post a Comment