Happy Epiphany! Epiphany started yesterday with the Feast of the Magi, and it will continue until we get to Lent. The word Epiphany means manifestation, and throughout this season we are going to be exploring the manifestation of Jesus Christ in the world. It started yesterday, when the Magi came. They are often referred to as the Three Wise Men, although I must point out that scripture does not say there are three of them, nor that they were wise, nor does it say they were all men, it just says that they were The Magi. What we do know about them is little, but we do know that they came from the East, and they were Gentiles. So the story of The Magi is the story of the manifestation of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.
The manifestations continue today in the Gospel reading of Jesus’s baptism, when it was manifested before all the people there that this was God’s Son, with whom God is well pleased. These manifestations will continue every week of the Epiphany season as we see manifestations in Jesus’s calling to the disciples, manifestations of Christ’s healing power, and the season will end with that final and ultimate manifestation of Jesus’s Transfiguration up on the mount in front of Peter, James, and John. It is a season of manifestations, the Incarnation of God to this world.
Epiphany is the third season of the church year, and it does have its own integrity. But Epiphany is more like the third part of a trilogy, like the third book or third movie of a trilogy. That third installment has its own integrity, but it is part of a larger whole. In the trilogy of seasons—Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, we prepared for the coming of Christ in Advent; in Christmas we celebrated the coming of Christ; and now in Epiphany that coming of Christ in manifested out into the world. They are all part of one whole, or if you like, they are all cut from the same piece of fabric, and therefore all share the same threads.
One of those threads, throughout all three of these seasons, is the thread of light. In Advent we heard those beautiful readings from Isaiah about the coming of a light to a people in great darkness. In Christmas we celebrated the birth of that light. As John put it, in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. All things came into being through Him. What came into being through Him was life. This life was the light of all people, and the darkness cannot overcome this light. So we celebrated that birth of the light into the world, that light that Isaiah had been talking about. Now, that light is spreading, it is shining out as the Magi followed that bright shining star to Jesus in the manger. We heard the Creation story in the first reading this morning, when God said, “Let there be light”, a reminder that there is a light shining out. Throughout this season, the manifestations people will encounter will be the light of Christ coming to them, ultimately with that light shining on Jesus’s face on the mount of Transfiguration.
In a few minutes we are going to be baptizing Jack into the Body of Christ. Baptism is a sacrament of unity; we are unified with Christ in baptism. We are buried with him in his death, and we share in his resurrection. Through baptism we become members of the Body of Christ, as St. Paul puts it. Each one of us becomes a member of that body, are given gifts for the whole, and work together to be Christ in this world. Baptism is a sacrament of unity. Jack is joining us in being unified with Christ, which means being unified to that light. In our baptism, when we become one with Christ, it becomes our job, our work, our calling, our vocation to manifest that light into the darkness of this world.
There is a lot of darkness in this world, isn’t there: a cancer diagnosis, a job lost, a failed relationship, an injustice, pain or suffering or violence? We have been tasked with manifesting light in the midst of it all, to shine the light of Christ into the dark places of this world, bringing hope to a people. After Jack is baptized the Deacon will light a candle from the Paschal candle and give it to him. The Deacon will say, “Jack, take this candle and carry its light into the world to the glory of God”. Jack is going to be carrying the light of Christ out of here today, and each one of us who have already been baptized is also carrying that light of Christ into the world.
Manifest that light today. Manifest that light into this world’s darkness, and remember the darkness will never be able to overcome it.