The season of Epiphany is perhaps one of the most overlooked seasons in the Church Year. Its significance, however, is one the Church needs to regain. “Epiphany” comes from a Greek word meaning “manifest.” Following on the heels of the twelve days of Christmas (December 25 – January 5), in which the Church celebrates the incarnation of Christ, Epiphany celebrates the manifestation or self-revelation of God in that incarnate flesh of Christ. In other words, it further answers, “Who is this Jesus?”
Throughout the season of Epiphany we see Jesus as the God/man who has come with divine authority to bring salvation to the world. The season is built around three key texts:
- The visit of the Magi (Matthew 2:1-12)
- The Baptism of Jesus (Luke 3:15-22)
- Jesus’ first miracle in Cana (John 2:1-11)
In the Magi’s visit we learn that this Jesus is the Savior not for the Jews alone, but even for the Gentiles. For all non-Jews this is astonishingly good news. Jesus took on flesh not simply to redeem the Jews, but to redeem all humanity. We may worship God in the incarnate Christ.
In Jesus’ baptism we hear the Father boom from heaven, “You are my beloved Son…” In the Old Testament Israel was called God’s son. Here, now, Christ is revealed to be God’s perfect Son, the one who will get right what Israel got wrong. Old Testament Israel was “baptized” in the Red Sea and led into the wilderness to be tested; Jesus was baptized in the Jordan and likewise led into the wilderness. Old Testament Israel failed; Jesus passed. Through His baptism Jesus was revealed to be God’s perfect Israel, His perfect Son, through whom salvation would come to the world.
At Cana of Galilee Jesus performed His first miracle by turning water into wine. This sign, as John writes, “manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” Through this sign Jesus revealed His divine authority and majesty and, likewise, calls us to place our faith in Him.
Our proper response is joyful worship, which is the theme of Epiphany. Consider but one Epiphany hymn: “The Star Proclaims the King is Here” (LSB 399). All three texts are represented and the song concludes with a jubilant doxology to God for His great epiphany.
The star proclaims the King is here;
But, Herod, why this senseless fear?
For He who offers heav’nly birth
Seeks not the kingdoms of this earth.
The eastern sages saw from far
And followed on His guiding star;
And, led by light, to light they trod
And by their gifts confessed their God.
Within the Jordan’s sacred flood
The heav’nly Lamb in meekness stood
That He, of whom no sin was known,
Might cleanse His people from their own.
And oh, what miracle divine,
When water reddened into wine!
He spoke the word, and forth it flowed
In streams that nature ne’er bestowed.
For this Thy glad epiphany
All glory, Jesus, be to Thee,
Whom with the Father we adore,
And Holy Spirit evermore.
May your Epiphany be filled with the joy of Jesus!