Epiphany: It's one of the most "religious" words there is. The Bible gives us Paul's epiphany, the startling vision on the road to Damascus; and then there are those special things that super-spiritual people always seem to experience—epiphanies, words of knowledge, sudden bursts of God-clarity.
And here we are on the eve of another sort of Epiphany—the liturgical season that has the unfortunate fate of falling between two far more famous church seasons, Christmas and Lent.
Just what is Epiphany about? Jesus. During Advent we prepared for his coming. During Christmas we celebrated his arrival. During Epiphany, we are treated to readings that help us figure out who Jesus is and why he came.
The readings take us straight to the central theme of this season: Jesus' extending God's grace to the whole of humanity. As Episcopal priest John Wall explains in A Dictionary for Episcopalians, "The season begins with the ‘appearance' of Jesus (the extension of his ministry) to the Gentiles, specifically to the wise men of Matthew's gospel. Epiphany thus proclaims that Jesus Christ is the savior of the whole world and that God's promises of salvation to Israel now apply to all the peoples of the Earth."
Lauren F. Winner is the author of Girl Meets God: On the Path to a Spiritual Life. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Invited and Convicted
Jeremiah 31:7-14; Psalm 147:12-20; Ephesians 1:3-14; John 1:1-18
This week's scripture readings clearly chart the Epiphany theme, that of Jesus drawing all of humanity into a living relationship with God. Psalm 147:19-20 proclaims the special relationship between God and Israel. It is with Israel that God has covenanted: God "has done this for no other nation." But that exclusive covenant is expanded in our New Testament readings.