It’s that month! After all the feasting of Christmas comes the fasting of January. Some have renamed it ‘Dry January’ (soft drinks only) or even the more recent ‘Veganuary’ (meat and animal product free) for the whole month.
Just before you do so, there is a reason to keep celebrating! A lesser-known festival has inspired the church since about the year 200 A.D. It lands on 6th January and has been known to be an eight-day feast that was cut down to one day. Why celebrate?
The word Epiphany (from the Greek epiphaneia) means manifestation or appearance and is derived from a verb meaning “to appear.” In the New Testament the word is used in reference either to the birth of Christ or to his appearance after his resurrection, and five times to refer to his second coming (his return at the end of the age). It is associated with the visit of the Magi (Matthew 2v1-12) when Jesus appeared to the non-Jewish, or Gentile, world.
The appearance of Jesus Christ to the Gentile world is a very big deal in the New Testament. The angels included the germ of this idea in Jesus’ birth announcement, when they proclaimed to the shepherds that his birth was good news for the whole world, a Saviour has been born who is Christ the Lord. The welcoming of Gentiles stands out in the gospel accounts as the promise begins to be worked out on a much grander scale. By the time you get into the history of the early church in the Acts of the Apostles then the uniting of Jew and Gentile (previously two hostile groups) is made possible through the cross of Christ. Jesus made a new covenant in his blood – a new way of approach to God was established through the death and resurrection of Jesus. The apostle Paul revelled in the fulfilment of many Old Testament promises, for example: ‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people’ and also ‘The root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations the Gentiles will hope in him’ (Romans 15v10, 12 which quotes from the Old Testament). The Messiah (or Christ) is for Jew and Gentile alike. We are all to put our faith in him.
Will this year be the year that you will consider Jesus for the first time, or engage with the gospel message more deeply? Why not take the opportunity to make an appearance yourself at our Sunday services and begin to see more clearly the Christ?
May God grant you many blessings in the year ahead as you do this!