Happy Epiphany! We are in the midst of little noticed season of the church year. Epiphany kicks off on January 6 each year with a commemoration of the visit of the Magi to the child Jesus, what most Latin American countries celebrate as Three Kings day. The word Epiphany comes from the Greek word for manifestation or appearance and it is a time to reflect upon the ways God revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ. Epiphany concludes on Ash Wednesday (this year February 14) and readies us for Lent, and for the journey to the cross during which time we reflect more deeply on who Jesus is and what he came to do.
I found a helpful article by Jason Gaboury who serves as regional director for InterVarsity’s undergraduate ministry in New York and New Jersey. You can read it in its entirety here:
He raises some questions about how we can shine light into the darkness during Epiphany. See below for some excerpts.
And we will discuss further tomorrow during my sermon.
Epiphany is not for the faint of heart. It is not a season for idealists who believe that things are basically good and getting better but who then collapse in cynicism when confronted with reality. Epiphany beckons us to come to the light of Jesus Christ. Epiphany calls us to stare into that light until our inner darkness is fully expunged. Epiphany sends us out into a dark and weary world as women and men with shining faces, until we say with the apostle Paul: “It is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Will you hold up a candle during this season of Epiphany?
Here are a few really practical ways to hold up the light of Christ in these weeks before Lent.
How are you radiating the light of Christ in your life as an individual? What practices warm your heart to the reality of Jesus’ presence with you? How much time every day are you setting aside to sit in the presence of Jesus without any plans other than to know his love for you?
C. Peter Wagner did a study of pastors in a Doctor of Ministry program. He discovered that one in four of the surveyed clergy—women and men whose vocation is tied to the church—pray for less than 10 minutes a day. Almost 60 percent of pastors pray for less than 20 minutes a day.
How’s that going for you? Do you long for more?
How much time are you actually spending consciously aware of the presence of God, and allowing his light to fill you? Keep track this week.
We can’t give away what we don’t have. A life of intimacy with God is impossible without spending time with God. Here’s the point! For our face to shine with the light of Christ, we must spend time beholding his glory. (It should perhaps go without saying that to gaze on the face of Jesus is to turn our gaze away from ourselves. This is medicine we sorely need in a narcissistic age.)
The best way that I know to sit in the presence of God is to do what Christians have done throughout the centuries, the simple practice of holy reading. In holy reading you work your way through a section of Scripture slowly, attentively, asking simply, “How does this passage point me to Jesus?”
So this week pay attention to your time with God. Perhaps consider holy reading.
It has always been the norm for Christian witness to take place in community. Our faces shine with the light of Christ together. We reflect the beauty and glory of Jesus best when we are connected to others in community.
How is that going for you? Are you part of a small group or missional community? Is there space at your table for someone from a different generation, marital status, or educational background?
When we are looking into the face of Jesus together with others, it becomes natural to connect the people we live with, work with, and play with to our worshiping community, that they might experience that life as well.
This week ask yourself, “Who am I connected with in mission?” And also ask, “Who are the people I live, work, and play with, who need life with God?”
If you’re not connected to neighbors, coworkers, or others who need life with God, how might God be inviting you to get connected?
What makes a church great? It’s not the people or ministry programs. It’s not the community or worship arts. What makes a great church is the beauty and holiness of Jesus. We do not preach ourselves. We preach Christ, crucified and raised from the dead. We preach repentance and forgiveness of sin. We preach life in the gospel. We are witnesses in word, deed, and power to the holy light of Christ. We hold up our candle. Our faces shine.