Today’s message emphasizes Jesus’ baptism and the visit of the three Magi, two events which highlight Epiphany, the liturgical event defined as a revealing of a god or any divine being. Technically, Epiphany is celebrated on Wednesday 6 January and the meaning is the spread of God’s salvation to the Gentiles (non-Jews).
First is the visit from the kingly Wise Men or Magi. Speculation is rife over the identity of these royal-esque individuals. Regardless of who or what these men represented, it’s certain that they were intended to affirm Jesus’ special status. One explanation is that the Magi were Persian Zoroastrian priests who had discovered Jesus auspicious birth through astrological calculations. The Zoroastrian religion continues in many countries and has been cited as an inspiration for the good versus evil apocalyptic themes underlying ancient Judaism and early Christianity.
Historical tidbits aside, who else is seeking Jesus? This is where it gets personal. The saying “Wise people still seek him” suggests that more than ancient characters pursue God. How about you? With Christmas barely past, we might still be tempted to visualize Jesus as an iconic baby or child. However, God’s presence is more than static or quaint imagery. Spiritually, we find God within any moment of searching. God is there. God is here. God is ready, willing and able to become an integral part of life. Our invitation is to celebrate Epiphany as more than just another church holiday. We are challenged to make Epiphany a transformative experience.
Now we turn to Jesus’ baptism. The aspect that makes it interesting as an epiphany is the voice of God the Father, something rare in the New Testament gospel. God’s magnificent words proclaimed Jesus’ status: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22b). What’s going on here? The baptism involved Jesus’ initiation into his formal, adult public ministry. Jesus’ baptism was a rite of passage announcing his divinely-appointed mission. In this sense, Jesus is presented as God’s Son. The theology gets quite dense here, but the gist is that Jesus has everything it takes to accomplish the work of salvation.
Have you ever experienced an epiphany? Many people claim to have had an encounter with God, but so many issues impact perceptions that it renders the process highly subjective. Nonetheless, it is a good thing that we cultivate personal transformation. It’s helpful to seek the experience of God in our lives. Otherwise, we’re likely to adopt poor substitutes to fill the voids. In accepting God’s Spirit we grasp the key to enduring joy and the greatest sense of purpose.
Do you feel connected to God? Do you feel awakened to heavenly matters? If you feel unfulfilled or in any way incomplete then you can realize wholeness through God’s presence. All these questions are intended to build awareness that can lead to a closer walk with God. Humans are designed to thirst for heavenly connections and there’s no better source than God, from whom we obtain the soul food that satisfies a spiritual appetite. Religious observances such as performing rituals, going to church, and other outward behaviors are only a means to an end (and not ends in themselves). The harder part is to complete the intensely personal spiritual connection that mere religion doesn’t accomplish. This means that we must develop our inner journey, our intimate relationship with God that results in our living and loving in a transformed manner.
There’s no better time than now, at the first of 2016, to prioritize and get things right. There’s nothing in principle keeping you from having your own epiphany or, at the very least, to experience God’s love, mercy and grace. Do you feel hindered? There might be something interfering in practice, but not in principle. In other words, the problem might be that you’ve conditioned yourself not to expect certain things because you feel unworthy, unqualified, or unable. You might have been taught that God is too distant and inaccessible. We need to stop repeating negative messages and replace them with promises and possibilities. We need to find ways to overcome internal and external resistance to what otherwise should be our vibrant spiritual journey. The quest is worth the struggle because the Spirit can nurture our soul.
What can you do to start? Embrace a positive, joyous, informed and insightful attitude that encourages spiritual health and vitality. Welcome God and God will come to you. If you truly seek then you shall truly find. Yes, embracing God is the best way to live the most satisfying life. Be resolved to find God and in doing so all your other goals will be placed in their proper perspective. Prepare yourself for the best year ever, one into which God will multiply blessings.