Today, the Feast of the Epiphany marks the end of the Christmas Season. If your tree and other Christmas decorations are still up, today is the day you can take them down. But today is an important theological day as well as we see the manifestation of Christ in three distinct ways.
The obvious and the one the Gospel appointed for this day point to is the arrival of the Wise Men “from the East.” Songs have been written about these visitors that bring gifts to the child Jesus. After the Shepherds, they are the first to recognize Jesus as a King but their visit sets of a chain of events that I am sure they did not expect.
The Wise Men were astrologers, more than likely Zoroastrians who noticed the bright star in the sky that they recognized as a star that would accompany a King’s birth. They followed it, naturally to Jerusalem but discovered that the child was not there. Some say they came some two years after Jesus was born, and the word used in the Gospel is house and not stable as is used to describe the place where Jesus was born.
They stop and ask King Herod if he knows where they are. He replies that he does not but askes them to return and tell him where the child is, so he too might worship him. But Herod has other ideas. He orders the slaughter of all the children in Bethlehem two years of age and under. But Jesus escapes, and the Wise Men return home another way.
The Second manifestation of Jesus is at the Wedding at Cana. This takes place at the start of Jesus’ public ministry. It launches it. Jesus and his mother are at a wedding, and they run out of wine. The Steward comes to Mary and tells her; I am not sure why; it might have been a family wedding. Mary turns to Jesus to ask him, well tell him to intervene, and he tells her that “my time has not yet come.” Paying him no attention, Mary turns to the Steward and tells him, “Do whatever he tells you.” Jesus then performs his first miracle in the changing of the water into wine.
The third manifestation, which we commemorate on Sunday, is the Baptism of Jesus by John in the River Jordan. This is an exceedingly tricky event to understand with our current view of Baptism. However, Jesus consented to be baptized by John, even insisting that John Baptize him as a way of emptying himself and taking on our humanity. There is an interplay here between the authority and humility of Jesus. John declares that Jesus has the power to baptize with the Holy Spirit, and later we see Jesus acting on this authority. In this act of submission to John, Jesus embodies his own humility.
Jesus’ authority and humility are not two different things. Jesus’ authority is the authority of the humble one, and Jesus’ humility is the true humility of the to whom all authority belongs.
Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.Collect for the Baptism of Our Lord