Today we celebrate the epiphany, the revealing of God to the Gentiles through the baby Jesus.
We look upon the epiphany as an event, marked by gold frankincense and myrrh and the visit of the Maji.
Lets take a broader view of the epiphany, after all , God announced that all nations would be blessed through Abram and this perhaps was the first recorded evidence of the epiphany. Moses was the vehicle God used to reveal God’s plan when in Deuteronomy 18;15 he says God will raise up another prophet like me. He didn’t add that it might be some 1200 odd years later, but details details.
I will relay some of the evidence but I am sure there is more.
The following prophets are credited with announcing the messiah and given God’s already revealed plan to bless all nations that to include their prophesy of the messiah as reinforcing the epiphany is not too far a stretch. Hosaea was the next recent prophet at 760 bc, Isaiah then at 740, but maybe pipped at the post by Micah at 742, We can’t be sure about the dates of the actual prophesy so the figures are a but rubbery. Jeremiah next at 626 before Ezekiel at 595, then Haggai at 520 and Daniel at 505.
It may seem a rather long gap then to wait then for the appearance of the messiah. The PR team of any significant organization today would be making much more noise about an impending event be it a new product launch or presidential campaign. Our own politicians certainly make a lot of promises and perhaps the proportion of those that are kept is the reason God does not go overboard with building anticipation of Jesus birth. God is in a very different league than our pollies when it comes to keeping promises.`
The reality is that God does not need to keep a blow by blow day by day running commentary on the impending event.
Through his prophets he has already done that. Lets have a look at what he told us through Isaiah.
In chapter 7 he announces the virgin birth of Jesus, In Ch 9 that there would be a son called the Christ In Chapter 11 that nations would seek the counsel of Jesse’s descendant, In Chapter 13 that Babylon would be attacked by the Medes and in the same chapter that Babylon’s kingdom would be overthrown permanently and in the next chapter that Babylon would be reduced to swampland. In ch 27 that God would restore the Jews. In 35 that the messiah would perform miracles, in ch 40 that the messiah would be preceded by a messenger, In ch 42 that the Messiah would be a light to the Gentiles. In 45 that Babylon’s gates would open for Cyrus, in 49that God’s salvation would reach the ends of the earth, in 49 that God would never forget the children of Israel, in ch 50 that the messiah would be spat upon and beaten, and in 53 that he would be rejected further in 53 that he would die for our sins and would be silent before his accusers . Isaiah has more prophesies about the burial and Jesus ongoing ministry which can only be understood in terms of his resurrection.
Psalm 16 and 22 speak more specifically about resurrection. Psalm 96 which we heard at Christmas and todays psalm speak of Jesus being lord of all creation all living things. We think of living things being animals and plants, but rocks and water are made up of electrons which are very mobile and active and all under God’s control. All of creation means all of creation.
Today's psalm fleshes that out in specifying powers and authorities being subject to Jesus, that whether in heaven, on earth or under the earth, in in hell, everything us subject to Jesus.
In today’ world when Isis Al Quaida, Boko Haram, the Syrians, Russians Americans and even the Australians are involved in this intractable mess of a world we could throw up our hands in despair But , knowing that God has absolute authority, that the same God who walked on water and fed the 5000, who restored dead to life, this is the God who can overcome the racial and religious tensions of the world.
I extend the prophetic timeline to include Easter and beyond because as Joan told us at Christmas eve, without the birth, there is no Easter and without Easter the Christ is simply another prophet.
The event s of the past which have been prophesied and fulfilled demonstrate that Jesus is the son of God with all authority over all creation..
We know that through giving us choice God wants people to make choices which demonstrate faith and obedience. And we know that Jesus victory on the cross gives us the authority and power to be his servants, continuing the work of Jesus continuing the work of bringing every head to bow, knee to bend and tongue to confess Jesus as Lord.
This is the epiphany continuing today, The event that was fixed on the calendar by the maji and symbolized by gold frankincense and myrrh, the same event that was foretold as long as 1300 years ago and continually through the ages and that we have the responsibility and joy of proclaiming to the gentiles today.
The first objective today is to dispel the perception that the Epiphany is a one off historical event occurring on a certain day . Whilst the Maji visit recorded in Matthew’s gospel marked that event, we can see that the revelation was a very long continual process highlighted by the Maji visit. That the continuation of the epiphany is equally real and is equally important.
When we consider the role of the Church, the body of Christ, to proclaim the good news and introduce people to Jesus. Recognizing that every individual who does not accept Jesus as Lord needs to have an epiphany experience, needs to recognize Jesus as Lord for themselves.
We have had considerable focus upon discipling in recent months and may feel ready to epiphanise people but there are some very relevant features of the maji visit which hold true for all time.
We read that the maji followed a star which led them to Bethlehem. We also understand that bringing someone to accept Jesus as Lord is principally work of the Holy Spirit.
Whether they know it or not, Those individuals that the Spirit is bringing to the Kingdom are following a star. Events of life, chance meetings, TV or radio snippets, more in depth religious programs attending Church, hearing witness and so on, all parts of being led by the star.
The time comes when they enter the stable and witness the scene
What do they see?, the baby Jesus,
Part of our role is to enable people to see Jesus In us.
In this context it is the mild, peaceful Jesus surrounded by love, humble and unpretentious. That might give us a guide as to behaviour even if we had not heard Jesus teachings.
The visitors to the manger see Mary and Joseph, loving devoted obedient humble parents. There is a family of peace, protection and love surrounding Jesus.
The role of the Church of being that environment of surrounding love and peace, that each person who glimpses Jesus through a Church member also sees the context of the loving supportive family surrounding and supporting the Christ child within us.
Without being too prescriptive about what happens in what order, at around the time that people recognize Jesus as Lord, the human teamwork with the Spirit continues, and there has been much and no doubt will be more to be said about sharing witness, explaining the gospel, the good news of Jesus, his life and death and how we have salvation through Him but that witness is critical in moving a star follower from epiphany to Christ follower.
Today we celebrate a new year and we celebrate new life for all who have an epiphany in this year ahead.
Encourage us Lord to pray for those for whom you have set the star to follow, guide us to reflect the life of Jesus to those followers and demonstrate the love of Church family that we may share in your function of bringing your children into your Kingdom For the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.