Skip to main content

Happy Epiphany! The Feast of Gospel Proclamation

In the UK, January 6th is famous for one thing – it’s the day the Christmas decorations are supposed to be down. But why? Because the 12-day-long feast of Christmas is over, and a new feast has arrived: January 6th is the Feast of the Epiphany. And the Epiphany is a day of good news!

Although we might have all but forgotten the Epiphany in the UK, it’s still a holiday in many countries on the Continent, where children dress up as the three kings and make cakes in the shape of crowns. But in the early church, it was Epiphany, not Christmas, which was the big holiday. (Christmas came about as a sort of add-on because there was so much to remember and celebrate at Epiphany!)

So what’s Epiphany all about? Well, epiphany means ‘manifestation’, and this is the feast of the manifestation (or revelation) of Christ, the Incarnate God, to the world. That’s why we think about things like the visit of the Magi, Jesus’ presentation in the temple, Simeon and Anna, Jesus’ baptism, and the Transfiguration at Epiphany, because at Epiphany we’re rejoicing in the fact that God has revealed Himself in the flesh to and for the world.

At Christmas we celebrate that God the Son has come in the flesh. At Epiphany we celebrate that God the Son has come in the flesh FOR US. At Christmas we rejoice that the God-Man was born. At Epiphany we rejoice that the God-Man has been revealed to Jew and Gentile, to young and old, to men and women and boys and girls, to rich and poor, to pagans (like the Magi) and to believers (like Simeon and Anna), to people in the 1st century and to people in the 21st.

Epiphany is a Gospel feast. In fact, Epiphany is a feast of the proclamation of the Gospel. We’re not just remembering the facts today, but that this truth is a truth to be proclaimed and revealed to the whole world.

The collect for the feast of the Epiphany has a wonderful phrase that proclaims the goal of this proclamation and revelation of the Incarnate God to the world: ‘that we … may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead.’ Unfortunately ‘fruition’ is a word we don’t use all that much anymore, so the meaning isn’t immediately clear (we tend to think of it being about fruit or the result of something) and the modern translations of the collect don’t manage to succinctly sum up the import of that word. 

But ‘fruition’ is a wonderful old word which means ‘the action of enjoying pleasurable possession.’ So, the Epiphany is all about how God has revealed Himself in the flesh FOR US so that we may enjoy the pleasurable possession of Him. Or as the Shorter Catechism puts it, that we might ‘enjoy Him forever.’ The Epiphany (and the proclamation of the Gospel) is ultimately about enjoying a good relationship with the good God who has made Himself ours in Jesus.

The Collect for the Epiphany:
O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the Gentiles: Mercifully grant, that we, which know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Popular posts from this blog

These are the Bones of Elisha (Declaring the Word of the Lord)

One of the most curious events in all of Scripture is found in a single verse in 2 Kings 13. That chapter records the death of the prophet Elisha, and yet, there’s still one more story of Elisha here some time after his death. 2 Kings 13:21 tells us:
So it was, as they were burying a man, that suddenly they spied a band of raiders; and they put the man in the tomb of Elisha; and when the man was let down and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet. Elisha was dead. And yet when a corpse was thrown into his tomb hastily in an attempt to hide from marauding bands of Moabites, the man came back to life simply by his corpse touching Elisha’s bones. Even as miracles go, that one’s quite impressive.

On the Church and On Sin: With a (former) Tory MP and a Catholic Priest

What with the Extraordinary Synod going on in Rome this week, the Roman Catholic Church has been in the news a bit of late. And as a result of all this pre-synod hype in the media, two Roman Catholics wrote two of the best articles I read last week. One was an article in the Catholic Herald by a priest. The other was an article in the Spectator by a former MP. You should read both of them. (But if you're not going to read both, then please at least read the second one!)

Now, maybe that seems a bit odd. I am, after all, both a Pentecostal pastor and an Ulster Protestant. And as such, I'm convinced that very significant aspects of Roman Catholic theology are seriously wrong. I still believe that justification by faith alone is the article on which the church stands or falls. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't read, and even learn from, Roman Catholics. Although we are justified by faith alone, it is by faith in Christ alone, not faith in the right formulation of the doc…

Money, Money, Money (Must Be Funny, in a Rich Man’s World!)

‘Not the Pentecostals! Watch out – they’ll be trying to get all your money.’
     – The reaction when a new Christian told her Muslim uncle that she’d got saved and           started attending a Pentecostal church. ‘Hello, I’m calling from [“Christian” TV channel]. We have some great deals on advertising during our broadcasts and wondered if the church would be interested.’
     – A phone call yesterday. ‘$11,150’
     – the amount one American church is appealing to raise to produce a worship album $750 plus expenses
     – an American amount recommended as a gift for visiting preachers ‘US pastors paid up to $300,000 - are Church of England vicars getting a raw deal?’
     – recent Headline in Christian Today

£5.75 million
     – the amount of money an evangelical church down south is trying to raise for               building improvements.$25,000
     – the amount two American pastors are raising to produce a six minute teaching video Money has been on my mind a bit of late. Not my …