The second Sunday after Christmas: Epiphany – Jan 3, 2021
- Christmas season ends the eve of Epiphany this Wednesday, Jan 5th. Orthodox call/response: “Christ is born!” “Glorify him!”
- Scripture reading (Second Servant Song: Isa 49:6) the Father says to Jesus:
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
Epiphany – God’s revealing of himself in human history
- God is a generous and gregarious being who created other beings—both celestial elohim and terrestrial humans—for genuine relationship and for vocational collaboration. His eternal purpose is for humans and elohim to live and rule with him over a united “heaven-earth” in cooperative, loving solidarity.
- As a Being-in-community, the triune God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—is himself inherently, irreducibly relational. God IS relationship. As John put it, “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8,16).
- God expressly created humans to live in intimate, exuberant, joyous, delightfully rewarding face-to-face relationship with the himself. “Face to face” – Heb., paniym el paniym; Grk., prosopon pros prosopon (Gen 1:26; 2:7, 8, 15: 3:8; 1 Cor 13:12; cf. John 1:1,18; Num 6:24-26).
- Our relationship to the Father is directly tied to Jesus’ relationship with him. We humans were originally created (and later recreated) in the image of Christ (Rom 8:29), who is the perfect image of the Father and has continually lived in intimate, uninterrupted face-to-face fellowship with the Father in the Spirit (Col 1:15; John 1:18; cf. John 17). When we are joined to Jesus through the Spirit at conversion, his relationship with the Father becomes our own: we get to experience the same type of relationship he has with the Father: intimate, holy, eternal (Eph 1:3-5; 1 Jn 3:1-10)!
- God also created humans to “rule over” the earth (Gen 1:26-28; Rev 3:21). We are in training for that now, in this life. As we learn to commune with God, pray, do good works, use the gifts of the Spirit to build his kingdom, live by faith not by sight, we work in his authority to “rule” to a limited degree. In the eschaton, all followers of Jesus will reign with him and will be given responsibilities and leadership positions commensurate with our faithfulness during our current lifetimes (Rev 3:21; Lk 16:11; cf. Lk 19:11-27).
- Both humans and elohim have turned from God throughout recorded history. Yet while there are always serious consequences to these “turnings,” God has never permanently “turned” from humans (vs. the elohim) nor given up on us nor changed his eternal plan (Eph 1:4-5; Rom 8:28-30).
- These “turnings” (or insurrections, rejections, rebellions) punctuate the entirety of recorded history beginning in Genesis 3. What are some other examples?
- The consequences of “turning” are frequently severe yet always administered in love with mercy (cf. Ex 34:6-7). They involve God “giving [us] over” to both natural and supernatural afflictions calculated to humble us and turn us back to himself (Acts 14:16; Rom 1:24,26,28; cf. 1 Cor 5:5). This process of discipline for sin typically involves some type of exile and results in the sparing, chastening, teaching and restoring of those who respond by “turning back” (the “repentant”) and the destruction of those who refuse to do so (the “unrepentant”).
- Despite our habitual tendency to “turn” from God, he remains faithful to pursue us and stay true to his original plan to create a lasting place where His celestial and terrestrial families will live together in mutual love, fellowship and joyful vocation. He has continued to faithfully preserve Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham, with whom he established a covenant at Sinai. And God has continued to reveal himself to the unreached “Nations” through a variety of means: astronomical signs, dreams, indigenous prophets, Israelite émigrés and prophets, divination, etc. as a means of drawing people to himself. Many Gentiles have responded to Jesus throughout history. Interestingly, at least two of the women listed in Jesus’ genealogy, possibly three, were Gentiles (Mt 1:5-6: Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba?).
15 “Friends… we are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things (idols of elohim) to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. 16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”
- Epiphany celebrates God’s refusal to give up on humans, especially the non-Jewish portion of humanity (“the Nations” or Gentiles). The story of the magi exemplifies how God continues to reach out to us in his immense love and patience, because of his unfailing goodness.
- God used an astronomical sign to signal to the magi that the long-expected King of the Jews had come to save his people and a dream to save them (Matt 2:1-12).
- History is replete with other fascinating accounts of God revealing himself to “the Nations”. In the life to come, we will likely hear countless stories about how God was at work among non-Jewish ethnic groups to draw people to himself.
- Reflect on God’s unchanging love and goodness to humankind this week. Personalize it: God loved YOU so much that he did everything necessary to draw you back to him in intimate, face-to-face relationship.
- Try the following Epiphany tradition called “The chalking of the doors” as a way to invite God to bless and indwell your home throughout the coming year.
Write above your door: 20 + C + M + B + 21
Pray a short prayer.
(Chalk and instructions available near the door as you leave. Have fun with this!)
- Heiser, Michael. Reversing Hermon. Crane, MO: Defender Publishing, 2017. https://www.amazon.com/Reversing-Hermon-Watchers-Forgotten-Mission/dp/0998142638/ref=sr_1_5?crid=1XJHSQRDBOVOD&dchild=1&keywords=reversing+hermon+michael+heiser&qid=1609362715&sprefix=reversing+hermon%2Caps%2C228&sr=8-5
- Richardson, Don. Eternity in their Hearts. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2006. https://www.amazon.com/Eternity-Their-Hearts-Don-Richardson/dp/0764215582/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2158054OLEC4I&dchild=1&keywords=eternity+in+their+hearts+by+don+richardson&qid=1609362843&sprefix=eternity+in+thei%2Caps%2C238&sr=8-1