Isaiah 62 presents a number of images celebrating the restoration of Israel after Babylonian captivity. The nations around Israel will see this restoration and marvel at what the Lord has done for Israel. Israel will be like a “beautiful crown” in the hand of
God, and it will seem as though God has “married” the land of Israel and that God rejoices over it like “the bridegroom rejoices over the bride.” Moreover the land of Israel will be known by a new name: no longer shall the nations call Israel “desolate” but rather Israel will be known as “My delight is in her.” In this text from Isaiah we are once more reminded of the power of God to turn around a miserable existence to his glory.
Psalm 36 celebrates the steadfast love of the Lord. It does so by describing the expanse of that love in terms of the expanse of creation (from the highest heavens to the lowest depths). The Psalm culminates with the declaration that all can safely stay “in the shadow” of God’s wings. This is a fitting response to the deliverance spoken of in our Hebrew Bible reading.
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” This is Paul’s message to the Corinthian church that was rife with division. Paul instructs the church that its diversity is a grace gift from the Spirit, enabling the church to be fully functional
as the body of Christ. The list of Spirit-gifts Paul includes here are ‘tangible’ gifts. They could be seen, felt, and heard. They had impact. As Christians it is important we realize that the Spirit makes an objective difference in our lives. The Spirit gifts allow us to achieve in ways we not be able to achieve without it. We are prone in a age biased against the metaphysical to think of ‘spirit gifts’ as merely a cute and heart warming spiritual idea–but Paul had no such understanding. Paul believed his entire ministry and success were due to the power of the Spirit working in his life.
What does it mean to have “God with us” in the person of Jesus Christ? That is the question of Epiphany. For his mother Mary at the wedding banquet at Cana it meant having wine when there was no more wine. The story of turning water into wine is an interesting one that does not entirely translate to our modern setting. First, the emphasis on hospitality in a society of honor and shame meant that the lack of wine was a matter of extreme importance. Second, the quality of the wine that Jesus produces goes against the usual practice of giving the best wine first and the worst wine last (when everyone was too
intoxicated to notice). In this we see the extent and quality of God’s grace. It is far greater than we deserve, and of such a quality that it is beyond our ability to appreciate. Third, Jesus’ abrupt answer to Mary and his declaration that his “hour had not yet come’
mysteriously does not keep Jesus from performing the miracle. Mary simply turns to the servants and tells them to do whatever Jesus asks. Mary seems unfazed by what appears to be a denial to her request. Jesus in turn does not hold back the miracle. We are left to wonder as to the significance of this exchange. Does Mary’s faith play a role in the miracles completion? Does the compassion and obedience of Jesus (to his Mother!) encourage him to perform the miracle even if he thought better of it?
Celebration of Worship
As you prepare your hearts, minds, and souls for worship consider the steadfast love of the Lord that is manifested in the redemption of people (Isaiah), the lavish gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians), and the provision of wine (John 2). Epiphany shows us that to have “God
with us” means to have the continual steadfast love of the Lord by our side which is able to provide our needs, give miracles beyond what we ask for, and renew us when all hope seems lost.