The church season known as Epiphany is largely misunderstood and to a certain extent even ignored.
Unlike the seasons of Advent and Lent, Epiphany is not marked with special services in many churches. There are no special Epiphany sales at the department stores nor are there any special Epiphany family dinners which relatives drive great distances to attend.
So what is Epiphany all about?
Epiphany means “an appearance or manifestation, especially of a deity.” On the calendar date of January 6 the Church marks the visitation of the Gentile Wise Men to the Baby Jesus, led by the appearance of the star.
When we listen carefully to Scriptures read in church during the Epiphany season, we note an emphasis on the different ways Jesus showed or “manifested” Himself to be the Son of God.
One Epiphany text in particular drives this point home. It is the account of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River. As important as the baptism of Jesus was (… to fulfill all righteousness,” Matthew 3:15), what happened after the baptism is equally important.
The Holy Spirit emphasizes this by leading Matthew to use the word BEHOLD. Though it’s not used very much in our everyday conversation, it’s a good word! The word is similar to “Check it out!” or “Look at that!” It focuses a person’s special attention on what is about to happen.
After Jesus had come out of the Jordan River after being baptized, “BEHOLD, the heavens were opened to him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest upon him; and BEHOLD, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:16-17, ESV).
The Holy Spirit wanted His readers to pay close attention to what was being revealed here. God the Holy Spirit and God the Father made their presence visibly and vocally known at Jesus’ baptism. And why? Because at His baptism Jesus was “revealed” to be the beloved Son of God anointed to be our Savior! This Jesus, who had such a humble servant’s form, was Himself the almighty and eternal God!
Thus we see the great significance of Epiphany. It helps us make a proper transition from the cradle of Christmas to the cross of Lent. It’s good to be reminded again and again that it was no mere human who was first laid in the manger and who then laid down His life on the cross.
The One who was lying in a manger and was then nailed to a cross truly was/is God Himself. Jesus is the beloved Son of God with whom the Father is well pleased.
Jesus is our Savior-God who went to incredible lengths to rescue us from the devil’s iron grip, to save us from our sins, and to give us the gift of eternal life. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).
So let us not pass over or ignore the blessed season of Epiphany. Rather, as we go from the cradle of Christmas to the cross of Lent, let us stand in complete and utter amazement that the Father sent His well-beloved Son on His mission to save us from sin and all its consequences! Praise be to God!