Sunday is Epiphany (January 6th). Epiphany is a Greek word meaning to “manifest” and is the title of a Christian feast day in which the church celebrates the revelation of God the Son as a human being in Jesus Christ. The season of Epiphany follows the feast of Epiphany and includes such notable stories as the baptism of Jesus and the transfiguration. Throughout Epiphany we are invited to experience the self revelation of God as we reflect on the uniqueness of Christ, his work and mission.
The book of Isaiah is thought to be the product of three different eras in the history the Jewish people containing oracles from the Isaiah tradition before (in the 8th century), during (in the sixth century), and after the Babylonian exile (in the fifth century). Isaiah 60 is part of the so-called “Third Isaiah” (a name given the final chapters of Isaiah by scholars). The background situation of Third Isaiah is of former Jewish exiles that have returned to the rubble of the Judean countryside and are faced with the daunting task of reestablishing their identity as a people of God, and finding their place alongside the mighty empires of the known world. The oracles of Third Isaiah encourage the people in their efforts and remind the people of their covenant promise through Abraham that they will be a blessing to the nations. Isaiah 60:1-6 tells the returning exiles that the glory of God will shine a light into the world through them, and that “Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” The promise of God’s glory filled light is a fitting image for the day of Epiphany when we celebrate the glory of God coming to the world in the person of Jesus Christ.
Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
Psalm 72 is a coronation psalm to be sung at the crowning of a new king. The particular emphasis of psalm 72 is a hope that the new king will possess the righteousness of God. This righteousness includes fair judgment for the poor, and a defense of the poor from those that oppress. We are reminded that God’s glory coming into the world in the person of Jesus Christ is “good news” to the poor and the outcast.
In our text from Ephesians the Pauline tradition speaks of a “mystery” that was made known to Paul by God’s special revelation. Paul gives the content of the mystery that was made known to him: “the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” This mystery reminds us of the promise given to Abraham’s descendents that they would be a blessing to all the nations of the earth (see above commentary for Isaiah 60:1-6).
Matthew 2:1-12 Matthew’s Magi are meant to be literary bombshells that obliterate the Matthean community’s expectations. The Magi are least likely of all heralds for the Messiah. The magi from the east are practitioners of strange magic and lore, gentile to the core, yet the first to recognize the birth of the king of the Jews and shower him with gifts of royalty and to kneel before him and pay him homage. It is an irony of biblical proportions. Paul will describe this event and others like it as the mystery of the gospel. The magi are proof that things have changed—the mystery has been revealed—things change when wonder is discovered and risks are taken (like defying a powerful king and going on a perilous journey.
Celebration of Worship
As you prepare your hearts and minds for worship consider the glory of God revealed in the person of Christ. Consider the wonder that was created in the hearts and minds of the magi as the gazed heavenward and saw the special star shining light into the darkness. See that God’s glory is revealed in the inclusion of outsiders and the protection and deliverance of justice for the poor.