Jesus comes for all – the Epiphany or Theophany

The Theophany - an icon depicting the baptism of Jesus

Dear Blog

The Church has moved from celebrating the birth of Jesus, Christmas, to celebrating the fact that Jesus came not only to show the love of God to his fellow members of the Jewish nation, but also to the gentiles, the non-Jews. In the Church’s calendar, this season is known as Epiphany.

Lots of attention is given, rightly, to Christmas. But I often think that Christians overlook the importance of the Epiphany. In the Eastern churches the Epiphany (called the Theophany) arose as a general commemoration of the birth, childhood and baptism of Jesus – it is still, in the East, a very important festival. It was later adopted in the Western churches, and added to the celebration of Jesus’ birth.

In any case, the Epiphany is a year-by-year reminder of the scope of Jesus’ mission – to bring the love of God to everyone. Jesus isn’t just the messenger of this love – he doesn’t just tell stories of the love of God, or preach sermons about them – in his coming, and in his life, death and rising to new life, he is a powerful testimony to the love of God. God loved the world – us – so much that he gave his only Son, to call us out of our lives of sin and brokenness, and lead us into eternal life (cf John 3:16). Our response to this message of love, and the extraordinary generosity of God is to love God, and to love one another.

My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love–so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about–not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.

My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us–perfect love!

This is how we know we’re living steadily and deeply in him, and he in us: He’s given us life from his life, from his very own Spirit. Also, we’ve seen for ourselves and continue to state openly that the Father sent his Son as Savior of the world. Everyone who confesses that Jesus is God’s Son participates continuously in an intimate relationship with God. We know it so well, we’ve embraced it heart and soul, this love that comes from God.

God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day–our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life–fear of death, fear of judgment–is one not yet fully formed in love.

We, though, are going to love–love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.

If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both. (1 John 4:7-21, The Message).

Love is more than an idea, more than an emotion. One of the things I’ve come to realise in my life is that I can choose to love, even when I don’t feel like being loving. It is enormously freeing to depend not on my subjective emotions which can be biased and warped, but on the command of Jesus to love, and to serve.

Where is love going in your life? What drives it? What is at the centre of your loving?


PS: I was challenged by this reflection on Epiphany from Bishop Michael Hough of Ballarat.

It is with the coming of the Wise men that we know that Christmas is over, for we are then faced with one of the consequences of Christmas.  The Father sent the Son so that all men and women can know his loving mercy.  Our task, as we celebrate the Epiphany, is to take the Good News out into the world.  It is not a gift we were ever meant to keep to ourselves.  If we want to know how we are going as a Church, we should measure the level of our encounters with those who do not grace our pews on a regular basis.  Anything else would be a misreading of what it is God wants of us.  (Bishop Michael Hough, Bishop of Ballarat)

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