6th January 2023

So the season of Christmas has come to its end for another year, with its charming story of the Baby at Bethlehem, of God coming to share our human experience, ‘slipping in beside us’ as the world looked elsewhere. Today brings us to Epiphany when God shows himself, makes himself manifest, most popularly in the account of the visit of the Wise Men. These mysterious scholars from the East come seeking a king, but find a young child living in very ordinary and humble circumstances, and in this unexpected turn of events the Gentile world begins to learn of God’s coming amongst us.

However, it seems likely that originally Epiphany was kept as a celebration of Jesus’ baptism. He’d gone to the Jordan where his cousin John was offering the Jews a baptism of repentance, thus identifying himself with this call to spiritual renewal. Immediately after his baptism the voice speaks from heaven, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved.’ Jesus, as it were, steps out of the anonymity of the crowd and on to the public stage of his earthly ministry, no longer just a carpenter from Nazareth, but the one in whom the Kingdom of God itself draws near. God manifests himself in Jesus, and he’s on a mission; he’s come to get things done.

People sometimes talk about having epiphany moments: something opens their eyes, the familiar takes on fresh and greater significance, the penny drops. Such experiences are to be welcomed and indeed can be important in our spiritual journeys, but God’s continuing epiphanies don’t depend upon our inner realisations. He will show himself; he makes himself manifest.

Ken Stewart