Today’s message emphasizes Jesus’ baptism and the visit of the three Magi, events which together constitute the liturgical celebration known as Epiphany. In more general terms, an epiphany is any revealing or manifestation of a divinity, superhuman being, god, etc.
Let’s start with the visit from the kingly Wise Men or Magi. Speculation is rife over the identity of these royal-esque individuals. Regardless of who or what these men represented, it’s certain that they were important figures attesting to Jesus’ status. One plausible explanation is that the Magi were Persian Zoroastrian priests who had divined Jesus auspicious birth through astrological calculations. The Zoroastrian religion continues in many countries and has been cited as an inspiration for the good versus evil apocalyptic themes underlying ancient Judaism and Christianity.
For Jesus’ baptism, the aspect that makes it qualify for an epiphany is the voice of God the Father, something which occurs only a handful of times in the New Testament gospel stories. God’s magnificent words proclaimed Jesus’ status: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). What was going on here? The baptism involved Jesus’ initiation into his formal, adult public ministry. The baptism was a rite of passage that heralded Jesus’ divinely-appointed role and purpose. But why was it called an epiphany? Theologians use this transliterated Greek word to refer to the revealing or manifestation of Jesus’ divinity. In this sense, Jesus is elevated as God’s Son.
Have you ever experienced an epiphany? Many people claim to have had an encounter with God, but so many issues impact perceptions that it renders the process highly subjective. Nonetheless, it is a good thing that we cultivate personal transformation. It’s helpful to seek the experience of God in our lives. Otherwise, we’re likely to adopt poor substitutes to fill the voids in our life. Anything less than choosing God creates an idol. In accepting God’s Spirit we grasp the key to enduring joy.
Do you feel connected to God? Do you feel that you are attuned to heavenly matters? If you feel that you haven’t got out of life what you’ve expected then you will discover fulfilment through God’s presence. Aside from last night’s spicy Thai dinner, do you sense a mysterious or compelling presence within yourself? There’s more than a pun at “steak” here because connection to God is a big deal. We’re designed to thirst for heavenly connections and there’s no better way to obtain the soul food that satisfies your spiritual appetite.
There’s no better time than now, at the first of the year, to get things right. There is nothing in principle keeping you from having your own epiphany or, at the very least, to experience God’s love, mercy and grace. Do you feel hindered? There might be something interfering in practice, but not in principle. In other words, the problem might be that you’ve conditioned yourself not to expect certain things because you feel unworthy or somehow unable to encounter God. In this case, we need to stop repeating negative messages and replace them with promise and possibility. We all need to find ways to overcome internal and external resistance. The quest is worth our struggle because the Spirit can nurture us with what is not possible elsewhere.
What can you do to start? Embrace a positive, joyous, informed and insightful attitude that encourages spiritual health. Welcome God and God will come to you IF you strive for it. Yes, seeking God is the best way to live the most joyous life possible. Be resolved to find God and in doing so all your other goals will be placed in their proper perspective.
–Reverend Larry Hoxey