Epiphany is January 6th. It is one of the few fixed days in the life of the church (along with Christmas). It always falls on January 6th. Epiphany doesn’t receive quite the attention as other seasons do, like Lent or Advent, so perhaps this is a good time to pause and reflect on the meaning of the season of Epiphany. The word epiphany is a Greek word meaning “manifestation” and refers to the public manifestation of Jesus to the world when he begins his public ministry. This is the season where we mark all of the great acts of his public ministry, beginning with his baptism and continuing through to the transfiguration. The baptism of Jesus and the transfiguration of Jesus are like bookends, accentuating the truth that Jesus Christ is the pivotal event—the pivotal person—in the history of the world.
His baptism is the marker that this man, standing in the Jordan River, is the one true Israelite, who alone embodies righteousness and who alone has fulfilled the Law. You will recall that God began by electing Israel out of all the nations of the world. However, Israel proved unfaithful and fell into idolatry and unbelief. So God raised up a remnant within Israel who were called to be faithful and to keep the covenant. But they, too, were disobedient and failed to keep the covenant. It all came down to one Israelite, Jesus Christ, who was the spotless Lamb of God.
His transfiguration is the marker at the end of his ministry when Jesus fulfills all the hopes and expectations of the old covenant. Moses and Elijah appear at the transfiguration as the symbolic head of the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah), solidifying Jesus as the fulfillment of all the expectations and hopes of the ages.
What a great reminder to us as we start 2021, which promises to be one of the most disruptive years of our lives. We are facing an important political shift from a Trumpian version of Republicanism to a more socialistic version of the Democratic party. 2021 will bring us the transition from the tragedy of COVID-19 to the post-pandemic long-term impact of the social, economic, and psychological toll of the pandemic, which we are only beginning to understand. 2021 will also be the year that the United Methodist Church agrees to some form of a separation agreement.
Whatever we face in 2021 and beyond, let us not forget that sole figure standing in the Jordan River. The one who will someday be transfigured. The one who will someday be crucified. The one who will someday rise, ascend, and be seated at the right hand of the Father to judge the world. The one “desire of all nations.” Let us keep our eyes fixed on him. He is the Light of the World. That is the message of Epiphany.