Worship at Hope
Season at a Glance: Epiphany
Everybody knows Christmas and Easter, and most of us can probably understand the idea of having seasons (called Advent and Lent) that get us ready for those celebrations. We know the stories of those special days, too—we know the story of Jesus’ birth and all the other figures, from John the Baptizer to the angel Gabriel, who get us ready for that celebration. And we know, mostly, how the story of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection goes—and we can understand that such an amazing series of events needs a little time beforehand to help us understand what the cross and the empty tomb mean.
But what about this new season we enter in January, the one called Epiphany? What’s it all about? Is it really anything more than just the after-Christmas letdown season, the liturgical equivalent of the winter “blahs”? The short answer is yes. Here’s what it’s all about. Epiphany is all about things being revealed, uncovered, or made clear. That’s still the way we use the word in non-religious conversation, too—you have a flash of brilliance or a creative new idea, and you might burst out saying, “I just had an epiphany!” It’s the same with this season in the church year—except the “thing” being revealed to us is not a flashback to where you left your car keys or an idea for a new business proposal at work. What is revealed and made clear for us is Jesus. The season of Epiphany is all about how people come to see Jesus for who he is—not just a cute baby in a manger, but the Son of God in the flesh; not just an interesting religious teacher, but the Savior of the world.
So in our worship for the next month or so, we will be hearing stories from the Gospels each week that help us know more deeply who Jesus is. He will be revealed to us as we overhear stories about how other people learned about Jesus. We start at the day of Epiphany, January 6, with a story we all know—of the Magi (the wise men) who come to visit the child Jesus. It’s a story of Jesus being revealed to people who would have been outsiders and strangers to the God of Israel. And then we hear the story of Jesus being baptized in the river—and the voice from heaven makes it crystal clear just who Jesus is: God’s Son and Chosen One. And from there, we just hear story after story of people meeting up with Jesus and finding their lives turned inside out when they realize who he is: we’ll hear the story of Jesus calling Nathaniel and Philip, and then Peter, Andrew, James, and John, to be his disciples. We’ll hear Jesus start to teach and preach to tell us in his own words what he is all about and what his kingdom looks like.
Why do we bother with all these stories, if we are already Christians and at least know something about the basics of Jesus? Because like in a relationship with any other person, when you really love someone—spouses, children, parents, dear friends—you want to know them more and more deeply. You get past the layers of superficial small talk and the masks we put up sometimes and find out what makes them tick. And it’s the same with us and Jesus—the more we follow him, the more we want to know him more fully and deeply. The further we go in the life of faith, the more we find there is always further we can keep going. So in this season of Epiphany, come with your eyes and ears open, ready for Jesus to be made real to you in new ways, deeper ways. Come ready to have your life turned inside out as we hear Jesus call us and draw us to follow after him. Come ready to see clearly the presence of the living God in your life—maybe for the first time.