I love learning new things like the fact that Epiphany is actually a Christian celebration and not just an “aha” moment. Having grown up in non liturgical evangelical tradition, I have to confess that I really don’t know a whole lot about the church calendar and traditions like this that have been celebrated for centuries by various parts of the Christian church. Our new associate pastor, who has a bit of a liturgical bent, was good enough to take the time to explain the idea of the Epiphany celebration to me. In a nut shell, it is a Christian festival, observed on January 6, commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi. Some Christian denominations including Lutherans and United Methodists celebrate a Epiphany season that takes place on the Sundays after advent and before lent. Just like advent is a time for looking forward to the coming of the Messiah, Epiphany is a time to celebrate his coming in the flesh to all people including gentiles like me. Having already been aware of the advent and lent traditions, this new understanding of Epiphany has added new meaning and joy to a part of the calendar year that I normally do not not look forward to.
With that said, my primary understanding of the word epiphany had been “a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.” Using this definition, I feel like my life is often one big long epiphany. So often the everyday experiences of life open my eyes to knew ways of understanding the Gospel and “getting” the truth of the new life that I have in Christ. This morning our pastor preached on Jonah and talked about how even as Jonah ran from God, he was actually fulfilling God’s purposes in a bigger way. Jonah ran because he was mad that God might actually spare some of the Ninevites if they really did repent. Instead, God used Jonah’s disobedience to reveal Himself to the people on the ship that experienced the storm with Jonah. As they saw the waves calm down and the storm subside after throwing Jonah overboard, they recognized the power of the God that Jonah served. I wonder how often God uses even my disobedience for his glory? How much more glory would he receive if I simply did not run in the other direction when He makes his will clear.
Doing what God wants is no simple thing. It may look simple at the time, but more often than not God does not reveal all of His plans to me at the outset – I could not handle it and surely I would run in the other direction. My wise grandmother once said that a person who is walking in the will of God is in the safest place they could be regardless of what the circumstances may look like around them. She often encouraged parents not to be afraid to take their children with them to the mission field if the knew that this was where God had called them. What she knew was that God’s will is often worked out in the family unit living through storms and trials and not in a separation that was designed to “protect” the kids, but often left them vulnerable to negative influences that the parents only became aware of many years later. Having grown up as a missionary kid overseas where our house was broken into three times in the space of a year and where I was bitten by dogs twice, I would not trade my upbringing for any other on this earth. It was part of God’s plan not just for my parents, but certainly for me too.
As I think of the many things that God has in store for me this year, I am reminded of what Hudson Taylor famously said, “God’s work, done God’s way, will never lack God’s supply.” During this Epiphany season, I look forward to experiencing new revelations of God’s will for my life and ministry and accepting it with joy and enthusiasm.