Christmas has come and gone again for the year. We are into the heart of the season of Epiphany. This is the Festival of the revealing of Jesus Christ to all the nations. The word “Epiphany” comes from the Greek, and means literally to “show forth”, but is also used more colloquially, these days, to describe a moment of sudden and great revelation or realization. Traditionally, in ancient texts, it refers to the revealing of a god or divine being. Another word sometimes used is “manifestation”.
I think it is quite important for us to understand this in the context of our faith, because Christians believe that God is a ‘revealed’ God. God does not wish to be secretive. In fact, God has made it quite clear that the divine nature can be understood in human terms, as we contemplate Jesus – the baby of Bethlehem.
As we begin to absorb the implications of Jesus’ birth into a human family, we have a powerful realisation that this God of ours is actually one of us – a human baby. The only mystery is how he manages to hold his divine and human natures together in one entity. It is a great mystery. Yet, we can so much more easily engage with a baby’s reality, than with such an impersonal, impossible concept as “Immortal, Invisible, God only wise…”
So, the baby who is revealed to the visiting Magi – travellers from distant lands – is now revealed to the world as the Son of God, at his baptism by John. The Spirit of God descends upon him in the form of a dove. John the Baptist recognises this as the sign he has been waiting for.
For us, the question might be, ‘what difference does this make for me?’ I’m not sure how I would answer that question. On Thursday, our conversation at the Eucharist service was quite powerful. We tried to imagine the ways in which our faith changes the ‘cosmos’. (1 John 4:19-5:4 was our reading). V. 4: “for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.”
The Greek for world is “cosmos”. We are talking here of something much wider than the sphere of our own human endeavour.
I’d like to leave you with that thought to ponder this week. Faith has the capacity to change everything. Just as God, out of generosity and love gave The Beloved Son to help us to understand God’s nature in a more personal way – so, our faith changes a tiny baby into the Son of God, and it gives us confidence and power to act differently towards one another, and to make a difference in the ‘cosmos’.
May God be revealed to you and in you and through you this week.