Epiphany comes from the Greek and can be translated as “the light shines forth” or simply, “the light shines.” It refers to the manifestation of some light, which could be knowledge, or understanding, or even relationship. The magi as the symbol represent the world that comes to see something of significance in the baby in Bethlehem, even when many of those closest don’t see it.
Ordinary time is the season that follows Epiphany, although most of the time we call it the “season after Epiphany.” In Year C of the lectionary cycle, the Epistle readings for this Ordinary Time are the Letters to the Corinthians. Perhaps the best-known passage, or best-loved passage from I Corinthians is chapter 13, the famous “love chapter.” We built this series on the Epistle readings as a way of seeing the light of Christ through the lens of love. “Love Never Ends” is both a description and a promise. You are invited to journey with us, guided by the Corinthian epistles to let the light shine around you, and in you, and then from you as we seek to continue to become disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We who have seen the light of Christ now desire to reflect it in our community and in our world by letting others see Christ through our loving presence.
Epiphany is on January 6, so last Thursday. Some will push the date forward and celebrate the Epiphany on January 2, the first Sunday of the new calendar year. We, however, took the route of pushing it back to this Sunday. We are looking at a combined Epiphany/Baptism of the Lord Sunday. If you are used to letting the magi of Matthew’s Gospel serve as the primary Epiphany image, then it might be difficult (but not impossible) to wedge magi and baptism into one service. Perhaps the descending dove, the opening of heaven—like clouds parting after a storm and the light shining through—might be images to shape worship around this time.
Epiphany is about the revealing of the light to the world. Not all see it, of course; this is why Jesus frequently said, “let those who have ears to hear, hear.” Even we have moments where we aren’t so sure that we have seen that light. Yet, we who gather for worship have caught a glimpse of something, and we come to celebrate and to lean into that hope. What we have come to understand is that we are to be the light, so that others might see in us the light of Christ. We might, then, acknowledge the light we have seen in one another and give God thanks for that vision in the darkness.
Our worship should continue to seek the light, to ask God to reveal God’s self to us in unmistakable ways. Maybe we could enter the space in relative darkness, if that is possible in your setting, and then gradually keep adding all kinds of light to brighten the space until all are visible and bathed in the light that is Christ. We can sing about the light; we can pray for the light; we can fill our worship space with light of different kinds and colors to remind ourselves that God can be seen in a kaleidoscope of ways.
And in that baptism of light, we can hear the words of blessing that Jesus heard and know that we are pleasing to God. Let there be blessings given and received as we remember our baptism together, even as we commemorate Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan river. A common theme throughout this series will be that individuals matter. Today, we hear the words that remind us that we matter to God. What better blessing can we receive than that?
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.