Jan06

The Light of Epiphany

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The Epiphany of Our Lord

The Light of Epiphany

        Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

        We are gathered together with the Holy Spirit in our midst to celebrate the Epiphany of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Over the past month, we have waited for our King during the season of Advent. We have celebrated his birth in the lowly manger in the little town of Bethlehem. The shepherds of the field came to greet the Redeemer of the world and to tell everyone what was revealed to them from the host of angels on the day of his birth.

        This revelation was sudden. It literally came to light by the presence of the heavenly hosts; a climactic moment of insight into the reality of God. This is what defines an epiphany. Our word comes from the Greek word ????????? which means A moment of sudden and great revelation.

        One has only to read the Holy Scriptures to examine the many moments of epiphany where people have a sudden experience of realization.

        These moments can be joyous, such as when Abraham and Isaac on Mt. Moriah had the angel of the Lord reveal the ram caught in a thicket [Gen 22:14] thus proving Abraham’s earlier claim that “God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” [Gen 22:8]

        Jacob comes to the realization of the opponent with whom he wrestles is none other than God himself. [Gen 32:26-30] The Egyptians receive the understanding of God’s power revealed to them in the death of all their first-born and the deliverance of the Israelites across the Red Sea.

        A favorite epiphany of a Reverend friend of mine is that of Elisha’s servant at the siege of Dothan. Where a servant of Elisha, a young man, saw an army surrounding the city with horses and chariots and became afraid. Elisha, seeing more than what the young man could see, prayed to God so that the servant’s eyes would be opened.

“Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. [2 Kings 6:17b]

        The Scriptures are full of such epiphanies. They come to those who fear and trust God and to those who reject Him. In the former instance, it is a wonderful revelation that gives us great joy. In the latter, it is a dreadful frightening experience revealing our own sinfulness.

        The first Adam, in the Garden of Eden, at the beginning of creation, received a frightening epiphany when he partook of the fruit of the forbidden tree of good and evil.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. [Gen 3:6-7]

The just and devout man, whose name was Simeon, had an epiphany that revealed the second Adam, the infant Messiah.

            The manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles is represented by the Magi, and at the other end of Jesus’ life stands the centurion who exclaims on the death of Jesus, “Truly this was the Son of God!” [Mt 27:54; cf. Lk 23:47] [1]

        We have all had epiphanies in our lives. Some have been great and some have been small. Some have revealed to us truth about God and truth about ourselves. In all cases, it is as if a light brightens our vision and things become clear and sharp in our minds. Some of these epiphanies bring joy while others bring heartache.

        Like a man born blind who receives sight and the penitent thief who requests salvation from Jesus on the cross, God is at work in our lives consistently revealing to us His work of our redemption.

        I am constantly amazed at the revelations in my life. These are the moments where I imagine the light bulb appear above my head as I come to understanding. To this day I remember a problem I had in my chemistry class and the epiphany of the working of hydrostatic bonds after it was explained to me in a simple way by a friend of mine.

        I remember instances as an instructor while teaching young sailors the theory of wave-propagation of electrons when their faces showed the light of understanding.

        However, these life experiences are nothing compared to a person’s epiphany, which reveals Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Unfortunately, even though God is in His creation, we will never find him of our own reason or strength.

        We cannot calculate the existence of God through mathematical formulae. We cannot grasp the knowledge of our Creator through philosophical skepticism, rationalism or logic. In no way can we manipulate, influence or control God. We cannot decide to believe, accept or perform any deed to receive the grace and mercy of our Heavenly Father.

        Just as our Lord came down from heaven to be made man in our flesh, our salvation comes only from above. We did not decide how God would save His creation. God did not ask us what we think would be the best plan. It is foolish to think that we can now decide how to be saved. It is foolish to think our work and our plan is better than the Lord’s.

        We cannot take the sins of another and pay the price for righteousness; only Jesus can do that. We cannot raise people from the grave or save them from the clutches of Satan; only Jesus can do that. We cannot make ourselves or anybody else pure, holy and righteous in the eyes of God; that can only be done and was done by the Christ.

        We are in a sorry state of existence. Our only hope is in what has been revealed to us through the Holy Spirit. The light of the world has come in the form of a baby lying in a manger. This is the Epiphany of our Lord. Jesus Christ is the Word made flesh. He is our King and Lord, a King so great that he is the world’s Savior.

        We will never know of him unless God reveals him to us. You may have already been baptized into the faith of Jesus Christ and have had the grace of God revealed to you. It is now your turn to reveal Christ to others; to teach them and baptize them so that they may have their own epiphany of our Lord.

        Now you may ask yourselves, ‘How can I do this? I am baptized and I believe. Yes, the Lord has revealed himself to me, but I do not know how to speak to my brothers, neighbors and sisters. What should I do?’

        The answer is to let the epiphanies of God continue in your life. Through the Holy Spirit and the Word, God reveals himself and his salvation. Christ was revealed to the Magi, but they did understand. They had the star above shining, pointing directly to where the Messiah was to be found. They even knew he was to be King of the Jews, but they could not recognize him as Lord and Savior through their mystic arts and astrology.

        Many of the Jews, the Israelites, the chosen people of God, watched as the light of the world walked among them. They witnessed healing, forgiveness of sin and the raising of the dead. They questioned and reasoned with the Son of God and still rejected him. Pride of one’s own importance is the greatest temptation of Satan.

        When we look through the eyes of our reason and worldly wisdom, we cannot comprehend or believe. Yet through the Word, our eyes are opened. Through our prayer and supplication, our hearts become the living temple to the Holy Spirit. Through the light of Christ Jesus, God is revealed to us.

        Satan will continue to keep you from this revelation. He will do everything he can to keep the Word from your hearts.

        When I traveled overseas and worked day by day in the theater of war, I never felt alone or afraid of being hurt or killed, knowing God was with me. Yet there was something to fear. I saw more of the evil of humankind. I saw more of the work of Satan than that of God.

        When I returned from overseas, God’s guiding hand was revealed. By the work of the Holy Spirit, I came to the understanding that if I did not stay in the Word of God, I would be lost to my own reason and worldly wisdom.

        During my time at the seminary, I saw brothers fall away. I witnessed the work of our Adversary using the pride of men as a tool to reject the truth of Christ. More than once, I wondered why I chose the path of being God’s servant.

        I then had an epiphany. The light came on and showed me my sin. I did not choose God, He chose me. God took one look at me and said, “You are weak. You will never survive without Me. For you to live, you must be in me and I must be in you.”

        Knowing my weakness, God put me in a position where I must be in His Word every day of my life. By serving Him, He is saving me. By being in His Word, He is in me. With the Holy Spirit working in me, I am able to do what Jesus Christ commanded all of us:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” [Matt 28:19-20]

        I tell you this so that you too become servants of Christ. Let the epiphany of Our Lord be your epiphany as well. His will is revealed to us through His Word both of the Holy Scriptures and in our Lord and Savior, the Word made flesh.

        Be in the Word and God will be in your hearts and minds. By serving Him, He is saving you. Through the Holy Spirit, given to you in your baptism, you now live in Christ Jesus. This is an epiphany that shows us our sin and an epiphany that lights our path to our Salvation in Jesus Christ.

        God knows we are weak and that we will never survive without Him. This is why He chose you to be His children and inheritors of His kingdom of everlasting life. This life has been revealed by the Epiphany of Our Lord.

Amen

 

 


[1] Leland Ryken, Jim Wilhoit, Tremper Longman et al., Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, electronic ed., 243 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000).

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