Tomorrow is The Epiphany in the Christian calendar. It is celebrated twelve days after Christmas. Epiphany literally means ‘revealing‘. In the Christmas season of Advent, we prepare ourselves for the coming of God’s glorious light into the world – His Son Jesus. In John 1:18 we read these words: “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is Himself God and in closest relationship with the Father, has made Him known.” But God did not just want to send His light into the world to be hidden in a cave.
The Gentile Magi Experience the Epiphany of God
God wanted to manifest that light, that is, make Jesus known, to people who were living in spiritual darkness. This is why the Church has historically celebrated The Epiphany right after Advent season. It shouldn’t surprise us that the visit to the Christ child by the Magi, Gentile wise men from the East, is one of the classic passages (Mathew 2:1-12) preached on Epiphany Sunday. God was giving us an early heads up that His Son would be the Light of the world for all peoples. The Jewish Messiah would not just be a tribal King of Israel, but He would be the messianic King of both Jews and Gentiles.
Experiencing an epiphany or visitation of God can be exhilarating and many people desire to encounter the divine presence. But to have a genuine and personal experience of God requires a cost as well. The Lord took the initiative in His grace by revealing the guiding star to the wise men. But the Magi had to willingly respond to God’s revelation by embarking on a risky and weeks-long journey across dangerous deserts to get to Jerusalem.
They then had to humble themselves and ask the leadership in Jerusalem for further light. They received it from King Herod through the Jewish chief priests and scribes. In following the star, the Magi followed the revelation from the Book of Nature which sent them to Jerusalem. Now through the the Book of the Jewish Scriptures they are given the prophesied birth place of the Jewish Messianic King, Bethlehem.
Again the Gentile Magi respond in faith and obedience to God’s revelation and continue their risky journey. They do not realize that their desire to worship the long-expected Messiah could cost them their lives. King Herod killed 3 of his sons and his favorite wife, Mariamne, who he thought were trying to usurp his throne. He was a paranoid and brutal leader.
After following the light of nature and the light of the Jewish Scriptures, the Magi finally encounter the Light of the world, the Christ Child (Mathew 2:11). They responded by bowing down and worshiping Jesus and gave Him costly gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. These costly presents probably financed Joseph and Mary’s trip to Egypt, in which they escaped the murderous clutches of Herod.
We Can Experience Life-Changing Epiphanies of God
The Magi had the exhilarating and wonderful experience of encountering God incarnate when He was a babe in the arms of Mary. But it was a costly and risky journey that led to this glorious epiphany of God in their lives. In the same way, for us to experience and encounter the very presence of God in our lives will involve costly faith and obedience. Worship that doesn’t cost us something, to repeat the words of King David (2 Samuel 24:24), is not really worship at all. And without worshipful attitudes and actions, we cannot experience the revealing presence or epiphany of God.
These worshipful attitudes and actions may include stuff that we don’t normally associate with worship. It could be the costly forgiveness of a Christian brother or sister who has deeply hurt us. A church filled with people who have merciful and forgiving attitudes is a place where God’s presence can strongly take root and be experienced by that congregation. Epiphanies of God will abound in such a place. Epiphanies of God will disappear when people take easy offense and are characterized by resentful attitudes.
Deepening our relationship with God will cost us something. It means investing our time, talent and treasure in a Christian community of faith. These kinds of actions and faith form Christ in us and open the way for us to experience more and more of God’s light and grace. It is well worth the cost. They produce life change that is both real and long lasting. It produces fruit in our lives that blesses God, others and ourselves.
QOTD: Are you willing to pay the cost of having a genuine and ongoing experience of God that is life-changing?