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Our English language doesn’t really have its own word to say what the Greek word “ἐπιφάνεια” depicts. Perhaps that’s why rather than translate it, our language simply adopted and re-uses it.
Epiphany! Some would say that it’s a word which merits an exclamation point when written. It’s always something surprising, unexpected, exciting, even startling. Translating it as “manifestation” or “appearance” kind of kills the power of the word. It’s a word that should grab and shake us, like a tag line at the end of a reality or cooking show: “Bam!” “You’re fired” “The tribe has spoken!”
We don’t have any single word for this in English, but the borrowed one, “Epiphany!” Maybe about the briefest equivalent we might have is something like, “Sudden, surprising happening that changes everything completely.”
In Isaiah 60 the prophet is writing to the people of Israel standing in ruins. They’ve returned to their home, which no longer feels or looks like home sweet home. “Arise, shine for your light has come! The glory of the Lord is risen upon you!” EPIPHANY! Bam! God is here. You think you’re in darkness, that all is lost, that you’re nothing and forgotten. But the nations will come to you for hope! EPIPHANY!
The selection from Matthew 2 tells the story of the magi coming to worship the baby Jesus. They worship in prayer and obeisance, and also with the unexpected giving of surprising gifts that seem to reveal what this child will become: Gold: riches fit for a king. Frankincense: incense used to worship the Divine. Myrrh an herb used for the embalming of the dead. This is what a true King is like! Bam! EPIPHANY! A true Messiah of God will be worshiped by the Israelites and Gentiles, the many and multi-cultural nations of the earth will stream to the light of the LORD. EPIPHANY!
In my own life I have experienced the love of God through the person of Jesus. I have felt it like a light shining in darkness. EPIPHANY! I have tasted a grace and forgiveness that restores, resurrects and redirects me in all of my life energy. I’ve tasted it like the joy of a family reunion. EPIPHANY! The scriptures put forward that to know God we need to look to Jesus as visible image of the invisible, sign and symbol, living Word, invincible light in darkness. Jesus makes “all of this” plain and simple. What does “all of this” mean to you? How do you reflect and retell it?
Questions for Going Deeper: