Epiphany • January 2, 2022 at St. Luke’s

Today we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany, when the three wise men or the three kings or the Magi visited Jesus in Bethlehem, bringing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, as we heard in our Gospel reading. The word “epiphany” is often used today in terms such as: “I just had an epiphany that I have too much sugar in my diet,” or, “I just had an epiphany that my life isn’t going anywhere right now,” or things to that effect. In other words, like a revelation or a realization of something about ourselves or our lives or some such.
However, an older meaning of the word epiphany is related to this but a little different: more of a manifestation of something. In the original Greek from which it comes, it means something like “shining light upon”, which I think is fitting, since it was the light of a star that led the Magi to where the Infant Jesus lay. And of course, when light is shone upon something, we are able to see it in the first place or when are able to see it more clearly; whatever the light shines upon is shown or manifested to us.
And of course, at Epiphany, what is being manifested? Jesus Christ himself. On Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus: Jesus was born into this world and was first seen of course by Mary his mother and Joseph. And then a little after that, Jesus was seen by a group of shepherds to whom a host of angels had appeared, who had told them about the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the World.
Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds would all have been Jews. So, with the arrival of the Magi bringing their gifts, Jesus was made manifest for the first time to the Gentiles. And for the Jews, the word Gentiles represents the rest of the humanity: basically, everyone who is not a Jew. So, on the Epiphany, we specifically celebrate how Jesus was made manifest to the whole world. God sent His Son not just for the salvation of the Jewish people, but for the salvation of the whole world.
So with the manifestation for the first time of Jesus to the whole world, what does the Lord reveal to us? The Church teaches that in the person of Jesus Christ, God gives us the fullness of His revelation to us: everything we need to know about Him and His relationship to us in this life is revealed to us in Jesus. After the fall of Adam and Eve and prior to Jesus’ birth, God revealed himself little by little to humanity. Throughout the centuries of the history of the Jewish people as recorded in the Old Testament, God revealed more and more of himself to the Jews. But the fullness of his self-revelation to the world comes in Jesus Christ. Through Jesus, the depth and the breadth and the fullness of God’s love for us is made known. In His life, death, and resurrection, God reveals to us just how much He loves us: so much that He chose to send His beloved, only-begotten Son to become man so that He might suffer and die on the Cross for us and for our salvation. God reveals to us His infinite mercy: that in spite of all of the many sins of the human race, He still desires to forgive us; He still desires that we be with Him one day in heaven. He also reveals through His Son His infinite justice: that justification must be made for each and every sin, but also that that justification has been made by Jesus through His suffering and death.
Through His Son Jesus, God further reveals not only who He is but also who we truly are: His beloved sons and daughters. We are not just a random collection of cells, or highly intelligent animals, or consumers of products and entertainment and social media “content”. Nor can we be reduced to our job or even our nationality or ethnicity or our race. These things might indicate some aspect of who we are, but who we are is most fully revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ: as his own brothers and sisters, and as such as beloved sons and daughters of a loving God.
Often we or perhaps more likely the society in which we live reduces us to what are really just aspects of who we are: details, qualities, or characteristics. But it makes those things our identity. No doubt you have heard a fair amount lately about identity politics, which reduces people to things like their race, sexuality, gender, and so on. There is a lot of confusion and angst nowadays about these things. So many people are confused about who they are, or do not really know who they are. But God has already revealed to us who we are, and so again I repeat: we are beloved sons and daughters of a loving God, who is our Heavenly Father.
There is no need to seek for any other kind of identity. Doing so ultimately will not satisfy us anyway. God has already revealed himself to us, and in doing so has revealed to us who we are as well.
In this new year, let us reflect upon these great mysteries He has revealed to us through Jesus Christ. Let us give thanks to God for sending us His Son, for manifesting Himself to us, and for revealing our true identity to us. And finally, let us accept and embrace our true identity as His beloved children.