Today, January 6th, marks the 12th day of Christmas. These 12 days span from Christmas to Epiphany, the day remembering Jesus’ appearing to the wise men. These twelve days were officially demarcated at the Church Council of Tours in 567, as part of a way to help bridge a growing divide between the church in the West, who celebrated Christmas, and the church in the East, who celebrated Epiphany. This word epiphany, which means a revealing, an appearing, an “Aha” moment, is found in Paul’s second letter to Timothy, where Paul speaks of the manifestation of God’s grace, “through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10). Epiphany celebrates this light, this appearing, when Magi followed the star and found the Christ child in Bethlehem.

Four short reflections on Epiphany, as this blessed Christmas season closes:

Epiphany is something which happens to us, not something that we concoct or create. Light appears, revelation manifests, and we are blessed to receive. These Magi, ancient astrologers, men who inquired into the stars for signs and revealings, saw something. They saw the star. The one true God put that star there for these Eastern magicians to see. They were blessed to see; the vision they saw was truly an epiphany, a gift of grace, a reminder to those in Israel, that the Messiah they longed for, wasn’t simply for them but a gift for all mankind. As Simeon declared in the temple after seeing the Christ child,

“for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

The Magi received a gift when the star was revealed to them and it led them on a grand adventure.

When one receives a revelation, an appearing, when light pierces the darkness, a grand adventure unfolds. What once was black and bleak, meaningless and mundane, is now filled with depth and color and brilliance that leads one to explore and discover and see the world in ways never before dreamed. The Magi were given a gift and it led them on a glorious trek as they began to see with new eyes and dream new dreams of a future King whose rule and ‘dominion would be from sea to sea, from the river to the ends of the earth’ (Zechariah 9:10). They ventured from the comforts of their home to follow the star and surrendered themselves to this coming King.

The Wise Men brought costly gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. But perhaps the more costly gift they brought was themselves. Their lives were in danger as they travelled for potentially months across vast, rugged terrain. They came in search of a king, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords who deserves all allegiance, devotion, and fidelity. And as they finally saw that young Christ child on his mother’s lap, they worshipped, they gave costly gifts, they surrendered their lives, they pledged their devotion to this Servant King. This beautiful reveal, this glorious appearing, cost them everything, but in the end gave them everything.

We often think that when God reveals himself to us and we begin to trust Him and follow Him, there will be great cost and sacrifice, and indeed there is. As our Lord Jesus declared, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). And yet in that sacrifice, we find true treasure. Like the man who sold all he had to purchase the field with the buried treasure, we too with great joy sell all to gain Christ. As our martyred brother Jim Elliot declared, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.” Had those Magi stayed home with their creature comforts, with their dates, their pillows, their pagan gods, then the fleeting threads of their lives would have never been woven into history’s glorious narrative, this beautiful tapestry of grace. And yet they did, and, “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

So friends, amidst these dark days, may the light of Christ be shed abroad in our hearts. Light has come to dispel darkness. Epiphany is a gift of God’s lavish love and grace that leads us into the glorious drama of the ages. There will be great sacrifice, suffering, and trials for certain. But in the end, after perhaps a lot of bad days, there will be that sweet ever after, when Christ our King returns in all His glory and all his enemies are put under his feet, when death is finally put to death, when night has had its final day, and the glory of the LORD covers the earth as the waters cover the sea. Until that day, may we abide in the light and love of Christ, and be that epiphany for a world in great need of revelation, of “the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death, and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

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