Newsletter Article for the January edition of The Hillside Messenger
“Epiphany and Renewal”
The Festival of the Epiphany on January 6th, is the twelfth day of Christmas, and the official end of Christmastide. The Festival of the Epiphany celebrates the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ to the world, and its earliest celebration in Egypt in the late second century focussed on the commemoration of the Lord’s manifestation at his Baptism. The season of Epiphany is also associated with the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus in Bethlehem, as recorded in Matthew 2:1-12, and this was the main emphasis of the Western Church in observing this Festival, an emphasis which is utilized in the Prayer Book Collect for the Epiphany:
“O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the Gentiles; Mercifully grant that we, who know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
(p. 107, Book of Common Prayer, 1928)
In this Collect there is a parallel between the way in which the Magi received the revelation of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the journey of the Church through this life by faith to the point after this life when it shall experience the fullness of God.
Just as the wise men, or Magi, were determined to visit the infant King of the Jews (Matthew 2:2) in order to offer him worship, and the gifts that hey had brought, so as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must seek the presence of the Lord and make him the goal of our spiritual journey. In Psalm 27 we find this significant verse:
One thing have I desired of the LORD,that I will seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.
(Ps. 27:4, KJV)
This verse expresses the Psalmist’s goal of living in the house, or temple, of the Lord, a symbol of living in God’s presence and seeing the beauty of the Lord. A little further on in the same psalm, this purpose is expressed again, in these words:
When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.
(Ps. 27:8, KJV)
It is this fixed resolve to live in the presence of the Lord that we must have in our lives. Without this resolve, our spiritual journey can suffer thousands of distractions, and the growth of the word of God in our lives can be choked by many thorns and weeds.
What we have been given as the record and testimony of Christ’s epiphany to mankind is the Bible, the word of God. To this word we must come daily and look into it to see the face of the Lord Jesus Christ, and know more of his divine character. St. James, in his Epistle, contrasts the hearer of the word to the doer, using the image of a mirror (James 1:22-25). The one who only hears God’s word and does not obey it, is like a person who looks at himself in a mirror, goes away and forgets what kind of a person he was. But the one who looks into God’s perfect law of liberty and continues in it, not forgetting it, but obeying it, will be blessed in all that he does. Two things are important here: the transformation of one’s life by a daily study of God’s word that results in obedience to him, and daily prayer that strengthens one’s relationship with the Lord. St. Paul describes such transformation in this way:
But we all with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
(2 Corinthians 3:18, NKJV)
The epiphany of the Lord Jesus Christ has this as its final goal: the transformation of the faithful people of God, so that they reflect the divine love and character of Christ completely, for it is in the Lord Jesus Christ that the glory of God is fully reflected and known (2 Corinthians 4:6). The Lord Jesus’ spiritual gifts of the ministries of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, were to equip the saints for the work of ministry, to edify the body of Christ and to bring all the faithful to the unity of faith and of knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity and to the full stature of Christ (Ephesians 4;11-13).
The nearer we approach this goal in our earthly lives, the more the presence and character of the Lord Jesus Christ will be evident in our lives. It is the grace and power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives to make the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ real in our lives for us and for those to whom we reach out in love with the Gospel. In the third stanza of Hymn 463 of the 1940 Hymnal of The Episcopal Church, the Rev. Charles Wesley penned these words:
Jesus, confirm my heart’s desire
To work, and speak, and think for thee;
Still let me guard the holy fire
And still stir up the gift in me.
It is not a prayer that any of us Christians may have the exclusive right to work, speak or think on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ, but simply a prayer that our work, our words, and our thoughts represent the Lord Jesus Christ effectively and sincerely. The “holy fire” is the grace and power of the Holy Spirit poured out on the Church, whose Gospel we must guard by accurately preaching, teaching, and sharing the truth of God’s word, and by practicing it in our lives. Let us all be so stirred by the Holy Spirit through His word and through prayer, that the character of Christ may be revealed truly and effectively in our lives.