January 6: Epiphany

Matthew 2:1-12; Isaiah 60:1-22; Psalm 72

Epiphany: The Manifestation of the Christchild to the Nations

January 6 is a very special day on the Church Calendar.  As early as the fourth century, the feast was observed in both the East and West.  “Epiphany” is a Greek word which means, “manifestation,” in this case, the manifestation of the Christchild to the nations, represented in the persons of the magi who came from far away in the East to see the King of the Jews.  Magi were pagan astrologers who inhabited the courts of kings from way before the time of Christ.  You find them throughout the Bible in Egypt, Babylonia, Persia, everywhere.  They were the king’s counselors and magicians (in which you see the word “magi,” Greek from magoi).

So today we celebrate the giving of the Christchild to us, people whose ancestors were pagans, that is, unbelieving gentiles, who were “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).  (But then again, this is the description of anyone separated from Christ.)  That is why this day is so special: God brought us near who were far off, and adopted us who are by nature children of wrath, and made us “alive together with Christ by grace” (Ephesians 2:1-10).  These pagan astrologers are ourselves writ large.

This is the magnitude of God’s grace and the fulfillment of His plan from of old, when He told Abraham at the very beginning, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).  Isaiah 60 is a wonderful prophecy of the event, speaking of the coming of the nations to a glorious new Israel: “Your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be carried on the hip.”  This new Israel will be beautiful and radiant and the nations shall not be able to resist her.  This is a prophecy that I believe has more than one fulfillment.  I believe it is evident that it has been fulfilled in the coming of the gentiles to Christ and into the new covenant with the Jews who have believed, as is so aptly shown in the magi who bring gold and frankincense (Isaiah 60:6).  This is the Church.  But it awaits a greater fulfillment in heaven where the Lord shall be the everlasting light so that no sun or moon is needed (as in Revelation 21:23).  I beg you to read Isaiah 60 and Psalm 72 as they describe the glorious King who conquers not by sword and shield but by the Spirit.  Those who hated him fall before him, just as countless millions have fallen before the Lord and his gospel ever since, embracing salvation and gladly entering his Church.  And it all had such a humble beginning: a baby, a manger, and two young parents.

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