Epiphany: The World is Turning!

We have just recently walked through the seasons of Advent, Christmas and Christmastide. This is the time of the church year where we acknowledge that God, in Jesus Christ, has stepped into our time, our space and our history.  The Greek word for this is “chronos.”  This is where we get our word chronology from.  God has entered into our “time” and the world has never been the same.  January 6 is the Epiphany when we celebrate the earthly ministry of Jesus.  The word “Epiphany” comes from the Greek word “epiphainein” meaning manifestation. It is the time when we reflect on the full manifestation of the Person of Jesus in the world.  This is normally associated with events like the visit of the three magi (manifestation to the nations), his baptism (the Triune revelation of God of his Sonship), the announcement of his earthly mission (the time has come, the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the good news), his first miracle at the wedding in Cana (where he manifested his glory), and his transfiguration (the full glory of God in Christ made manifest on the holy mountain).  Of those five events, the one which we talk about the least is the opening words of Jesus which mark the beginning of his earthly ministry, “the time is fulfilled…”  The Greek word used for “time” in that passage (See Mark 1:15) is not chronos, but “Kairos.”  Kairos is not simply “clock” time or “calendar” time, but the inbreaking of a whole new “time” into the world – the redemptive time, the new “clock” of salvation has begun to tick in a new way in the world. As Christians we have entered into a new time and space.  We still dwell in this world (chronos), but our lives and work are marked by a completely different space and time, the time of transformation, the time of redemption, the time of new birth.  Since God occupies the “eternal now” where all time is present to him, he can intersect any time with transformation.  This is why Paul can say that when Moses struck the rock, that rock was Christ (1 Cor.10:4). This is why Paul can say that when the Israelites passed through the Red Sea, it was their “baptism” into Christ (1 Cor. 10:1,2).  This is why our sins from the 21st century “chronos” time can be nailed to the cross in redemptive time (Col.2:14) at Calvary.  Kairos time is God’s “time” when the world turns from its headlong path of destruction to the new time of the inbreaking of the New Creation into the present order.

So, if we conceptualize Advent and Christmas as the time when God stepped into our time, our chronos, we should see Epiphany as the time when God summons us into His time.  He beckons us to occupy a new frame of time which sees the world turning from its wickedness to the experience of the joy of his kingdom, his rule and reign in the world.  The world’s chronos is about nations in conflict, riots in the streets, elections, congress debating various solutions to address our problems, endless discussions about COVID-19, and so forth.  All of that is normal and every generation has their version of it.  But there is another time which intersects all of this; namely, the preaching of the gospel, the embodiment of the New Creation, the salvation of lives.  These two “times” are not independent of one another. Our living in kairos time will lead some of us into the halls of congress, or helping to curb the spread of COVID-19, or working out solutions to the immigration crisis on our borders, but all of this “chronos work” happens within the deeper and broader frame of God’s unfolding plan, His kairos.   So, as we enter the new “calendar” year let us not forget that for us, Advent is the real “new year” and Epiphany is the time when we enter His time and we “walk not as the Gentiles walk” – but we walk in a new way and we follow a different path.  Advent is our celebrating God stepping into our time.  Epiphany celebrates our being summoned into His time.  May we truly live as kairos people.  May we live as people who listen to a different “clock” and are situated in a new “space” on the redemptive calendar.  There is much work to be done in this world.  But, the good news is not so much what we have done, or will do, but what He has done to turn the world.  Let’s walk in that time.  Let’s embody that space.  Let us hear again with freshness Jesus’ words: “the time has come, the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the good news.”  This is one of the defining texts of Epiphany.  His time has come.  His time has intersected our time.  How can we ever be the same again?


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