Epiphany is a Christian feast day, a day in the liturgical calendar for remembering one of the events in the life of Jesus, celebrated in many churches around the world in many different ways.
The word ‘epiphany’ comes from Koine Greek, ἐπιφάνεια, epipháneia, and was used of the appearance of the dawn – I am reminded of our Isaiah passage this morning, “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” – of sighting an enemy, but particularly of the manifestation of a deity to a worshipper. In the Septuagint, epiphany describes God appearing to Israel (2 Maccabees 15:27) and in the New Testament epiphany is used of the birth of Christ or his appearance after the resurrection.
Epiphany has an everyday usage as well. Specifically, it can describe a scientific discovery or a philosophical one or simply a personal experience where some fresh realisation allows a problem or situation to be newly, or more deeply, understood.
What I appreciate most about this ‘common usage’ is the understanding that while epiphanies break into our thinking suddenly and sometimes dramatically (Archimedes’ ‘Eureka!’ moment is the first example that is usually given) they generally require a depth of prior knowledge and application to the problem, before the leap of insight takes place.
Coming back to the religious use of epiphany, the same is true. The wise men are examples to us that the experience of being ‘overwhelmed with joy’ and of coming face to face with their heart’s desire comes at the end of a long, and sometimes hard, journey. It is both unexpected and the certain result of faithful seeking.
In February, and up until Easter, we are beginning a preaching series based on Marjorie J. Thompson’s book Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life. (Our small groups will be working in parallel with this material too.) It’s an opportunity for us as a church to learn more about and to put into practice some of the Christian spiritual disciplines, such as spiritual reading, praying, worship, resting, fasting, confession, seeking spiritual guidance and hospitality, which have been the basis for Christian people, over the centuries, having deeper and richer, sometimes dramatic and sometimes very simple, revelations of God, at work in their lives and in their world.
As with gladness men of old made their way to worship the Christ child. May we, as a congregation, also with gladness this year, explore what it means to find and follow and worship Christ today.
Grace and peace,