EPIPHANYTreasured by God
A newborn baby often elicits "oohs" and "ahs" from its admirers and yet developmentally, may be doing nothing incredibly remarkable—only able to focus on objects only about 18 inches in front of its face and prone to stare at any shiny object. Nevertheless, a newborn is a miracle to behold, filled with wonder for the world around it and desiring nothing more than to be fed, held, rocked, nurtured, and loved.
The gifts of the magi direct us away from the cute, cuddly, cooing baby Jesus by pointing us to who Jesus really has come to be. The magi offer gold, a possession of kings; frankincense, used in ritual to indicate the presence of the deity; and myrrh, an oil used at the time of death as well as for anointing priests. By their gifts, the wise men reveal the identity of this child: the king before whom nations will bow, the anointed high priest of God, and the suffering servant who will die for the ones he has come to serve.
The "oohs" and "ahs" we offer as we celebrate the Epiphany of Our Lord are not simply for a cooing and cuddly baby Jesus but for a God who chooses to reveal God's love and mercy by taking human form. On this day, we celebrate that God's mercy is wider and deeper than we imagined and includes all people and all nations. All people—rich or poor, Gentile or Jew, straight or gay, male or female—are God's treasure, the precious ones for whom God is willing to die. What do we bring to honor our Lord before whom we bow? We bring the treasure of our lives poured out in praise of God and in service to others.
The Significance, Meaning, and History of Epiphany
Following 12 days after the celebration of Christ's birth, Epiphany is observed on January 6th. The name "Epiphany" comes from the Greek word Epiphania, meaning "to show, make known, or reveal." The celebration of Epiphany originated in the Eastern Church in AD 361, beginning as a commemoration of the birth of Christ. Later, additional meanings were added - the visit of the three Magi, Christ's baptism in the Jordan River, and his first miracle at the wedding in Cana. These three events are central to the definition of Epiphany, and its meaning is drawn from these occurrences.
While some Greek Orthodox Churches still observe the Epiphany celebration as the Nativity of Jesus, the majority of the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Anglican Churches focus on the visit of the Magi and Jesus' baptism. The significance behind the visit of the Magi is the revelation of Christ as "Lord and King." The Wise Men were the first Gentiles to publicly recognize the divinity of Jesus, by way of their offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River revealed his divinity as the Son of God. John the Baptist, according to Matthew 3:16-17, testifies of the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus like a dove, and a voice from heaven saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." Several Russian, Coptic, and Greek Churches also focus on the Cana wedding miracle as part of the Epiphany celebration observance.
For the Church, the Epiphany represents a responsibility to reveal Jesus as the Divine Son and Savior sent by God the Father to inaugurate the kingdom of God. It is, therefore, a time of healing and fellowship, where the Church comes together in the covenant of sisterhood and brotherhood to love one another as Christ commanded.