The Epiphany of Our Lord
January 7, 2018
Magi | Baptism | Cana
Epiphany means manifestation. With a bright star the infant Jesus is revealed as Savior, as Lord, as King. The Magi—sometimes called Wise Men—signify all the nations of the earth.
The ancient church saw Epiphany not as a “single-event feast” but an “idea feast”. Epiphany celebrates the manifestation—the making known— of Christ. And by the fourth century, Epiphany includes not only the birth of Christ and visit of the Magi. It also includes Jesus’ baptism and the first miracle at Cana.
We will read all of these Epiphany accounts today, and several of the hymns we will sing refer to all three of them.
Baptism of Jesus
Who is Jesus? To the Eastern Orthodox Church, Jesus’ baptism is the great Epiphany. St. John Chrysostom, an early church father, said this: “We give the name Epiphany to the Lord’s baptism because he was not made manifest to everyone when he was born, but only when he was baptized. For until then he was unknown to the people at large.”
Eastern Christians celebrate the arrival of the Magi at Christmas. Epiphany is about Jesus being made manifest, revealed, made known at his baptism. They call it a theophany, a divine revelation. The heavens are opened. A divine voice thunders: You are my beloved Son.
Our baptism into Christ is a new birth, a new beginning. Like a star, it shines with hope and promise. Yet our baptism is also death. Dying to sin. Dying to the old. Standing in solidarity with all who suffer. Trusting that there will be a great epiphany for our lives as well.
Wedding at Cana
The miracle at Cana is about Jesus turning water to wine. The first of Jesus’ signs. But it’s much more than that. It is a great Epiphany revealing that there is always more. More grace. More meaning. More grace.
Isn’t this the transformation we seek? Jesus, come, surprise our dullness. Make us willing to receive more than we can imagine, all the best you have to give.
Even when all looks hopeless, the epiphany star shines on us. And everything tastes new. Everything looks different. And we are ready and open for the arrival.
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.
They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been
written by the prophet:
“And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.” ’
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’
When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding.
When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’
His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’
Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim.
He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’
Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.