I love epiphanies, those glimmers of clarity or wisdom that enable us to see things a little deeper, or better, or in a way we’ve never quite seen them before. Here on the Feast of the Epiphany of our Lord, I went looking for the origin of just how the day got its name, because honestly I was a bit confused. Did the Lord require new insight a few days after transitioning to an Earthly life? Did Jesus, in baby form, receive some revelation when His visitors came bringing gifts? I’ve known a few newborn babies in my day, and the question of conscious, world-shaking learning at that age seems…unlikely. They sleep, like, a lot.
More likely is the reality of a huge learning curve in the people around Jesus. Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the wise men, along with anyone else who may have stopped by, had to be utterly floored by the reality before them in that manger. Emmanuel: God with us. That He would humble Himself like that, that a timeless God would enter time, that He would see our need and enter our broken humanity, by choice? Unthinkable. At that moment, they could only guess at how the future would bend and twist, all because of the birth of this one baby on a speck of a dot on a map. It may have been the greatest epiphany the world has ever known. Over two thousand years later, we still can’t quite wrap our heads around it.
The word ‘epiphany’ comes from the Greek ‘epiphainen’, which means ‘to shine upon’, ‘to manifest’, or ‘to make known’. The knowledge or understanding of God’s deep love and plan for His people in the person of Jesus is hard to quantify or truly take in, but maybe understanding is not what’s called for after all. Maybe the real ‘epiphany’ is not information but literally, Jesus. Maybe He’s what shined on us. He’s what was manifested. He is how Love was made known.
When we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, maybe it’s not primarily about kings, gold, frankincense, or myrrh. It’s not even about what He learned as God-made-man, or what we could perceive about the meaning of His life, but simply the awesome, unfathomable gift of Jesus, walking with us, a living Epiphany. I want to experience Him like this, this year. I want to see, with awe and wonder, how He walks with me still.