Over the years, the season of Epiphany has become much more to me than simply a “filler” between Christmas and Lent. Actually, the observance of Epiphany in the Christian church—both the day (January 6th, twelve days after Christmas) and the season, is older than the actual celebration of Christmas on December 25th. And the name comes from a Latin word meaning “manifestation” (or “appearance”), which explains both the significance of the season and the Bible stories that are traditionally read during this time. As we will see and hear during worship, the stories offer us signs or symbols of how and why Jesus is the true manifestation of God on earth. From the star that the wise men follow, to the dove that comes down on Jesus at his baptism, to the water jars at Cana that are suddenly filled with wine, the traditional stories of Epiphany show us through these signs that Jesus was (and still is) the ultimate and eternal sign of God’s presence on earth.
The meaning of the season for us 21st-century Christians is significant. In a time when it can be seen as a weakness of faith to look or ask for signs of God’s presence with us, the season and the stories are reminders that even today, Jesus has a way of manifesting God’s presence in our lives if we are willing to step out in faith and see him in the world and in other people. The question you might ask yourself during these weeks is “How is God made manifest in and through my life?” As the question implies, during the season of Epiphany, we are also to consider the ways in which we might be “signs” of God’s presence in the world.
There is a wonderful traditional prayer from the Church of England that is prayed on the Day of Epiphany:
O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples on earth; Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God , now and forever, Amen.
May this prayer be yours as you journey through the season!