I was asked to write this article on Epiphany by Chip, and in all honestly my first question was, “Chip… what is Epiphany?” You see, most of the great folks I work with have a Methodist or Anglican background. I, on the other hand, have a Baptist background, and we Baptists don’t celebrate Epiphany. When I asked Nicolet, “What is Epiphany?” she laughed and said, “Chip probably doesn’t remember you’re a Baptist.”
I knew what uncapitalized epiphany was, so I decided to look into capitalized Epiphany. As I did, I realized that we Baptists do actually celebrate Epiphany, but we just don’t know it. So, for all my Baptist friends and for the other Christians that do not officially celebrate Epiphany, let me explain it to you and show you why, if we didn’t celebrate it, we would not be Christians.
Epiphany in western Christianity is a celebration that commemorates the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus, and thus Christ’s physical manifestation to the Gentiles. Now, for me, it celebrates what some also call “Theophany” — what John talks about in the first chapter of his gospel when he writes, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
For this celebration, Paul tells us, “Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision’ (which is done in the body by human hands)—remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:11-13).
So now I think I understand the basis of this celebration. Jesus came to reveal God to us, for He told His disciples, and those of us who follow Him, that if you have seen Me you have seen the Father (John 14:9). The only non-Jewish people to whom that was revealed at His birth were the Magi, whose ancestors may well have been given a curiosity about the Hebrew God by Daniel when he was in captivity in Babylon. God directed them to bring gifts to this coming Savior, to show everyone right from the beginning that Jesus was coming into the world for all people, not just His own people. Jesus was coming as a new King, to save everyone. And that includes us.
Now, this January 6th, I can officially celebrate Epiphany with all of my friends. I can also tell all my Baptist friends what they have been celebrating and did not know it. Isn’t God good, to arrange things so that we don’t have to know everything to understand that He loves us so much that He sent Jesus into the world to save sinners?
Now we can help those around us who do not know Him to have an epiphany about Epiphany. We can help others know that God loves them so much He sent His Son into the world that whoever believes in Him, He would give them the right to become children of God.
Now that is a real EPIPHANY!