Sunday, January 03, 2010

Happy Epiphany Sunday

If you are "low church" like me, you do not know what this is. If you are "high church", bear with me.

Christmas was adopted to celebrate the birth of Christ. Ephiphany is to celebrate his manifestation to the world, particularly the Gentiles, represented by the visit of the Magi to worship Christ. It is celebrated 12 days after Christmas, hence the 12 days of Christmas and Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.

It is now commonly moved to the nearest Sunday, which is today this year of 2010.

It was quite a thing that the Messiah would present himself and his message to the Gentiles. Certainly, Isaiah prophesied it, but the Jews began to think of the messiah as the one who would deliver Israel from political oppression and restore the kingdom of David. Oddly, dispensational Christians today have adopted that same belief. However, God was moving to the Gentiles, as he had said he would.

God's original promise to Abraham in Genesis 15 was that his offspring would be as numerous as the stars. The Jews interpreted this to mean themselves, and they were part of the fulfillment of that word, but the greater fulfillment was in the Church, for all who believe in the Messiah\Christ are the offspring of Abraham. In fact, Paul goes on to say that it is not the physical descendants of Abraham who inherit this promise, but those who believe in Jesus are the true descendants.

The next promise to Abraham was that all nations, not just ethnic Israel, would be blessed through Abraham. Again, this promise is fulfilled in the Church, as Abraham's descendant, Christ, brought blessing to people from all nations.

Isaiah told this truth in many ways in his writing. One of these occurs in Isaiah 42:6, where Isaiah recorded that God said "I, the LORD, have called you (Christ) in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles..."

Paul quoted this to the Jews in Pisidion Antioch after they opposed him and added "We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. (Acts 13: 46).

Then, at the very end of Acts, when the Jews of Rome would not receive the gospel, Paul told them "Therefore I want you to know that God's salvation has been sent to the gentiles, and they will listen!

Today, Epiphany Sunday, you might not engage in any of the formal celebrations of the day that are observed by the Roman or Orthodox church. Regardless, you can and should celebrate God's moving of the gospel to the Gentiles, for most of us are they. The disciples were commanded to spread the gospel to all the world, to the uttermost parts. Surely, America is the uttermost parts compared to Jerusalem and Judea. The disciples did not even know our continent existed. Yet, the gospel went forth from Jerusalem, throughout Judea, to Samaria, throughout Asia and Europe. Then, ships sailed to America and the gospel came to these wild shores. All of these believers from all of these places are all part of one body. The "Epiphany" signaled the beginning of this magnificent journey.

When I worship today, I will thank God that he brought me into this great salvation long ago promised to Abraham's descendants. As the song says: Father Abraham had many sons, and I am one of them, and so are you.

So let's just praise the Lord.
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