Epiphany Message from the Moderators of the Commission on a Way Forward

January 7, 2017

Epiphany means manifestation. This festival comes after Christmas and following the "Twelve Days of Christmas" to celebrate the manifestation of Christ to the world as Lord. Advent, Christmas and Epiphany are the first three events in the church year to celebrate the life of Jesus Christ, the center of the faith of the Church.

In its biblical definition, the word manifestation is closer to the word revelation. However, the word revelation can be understood in a general sense. According to the Psalmist, God reveals God’s self in God’s creation: "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars, which you have set in place, what is humankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?" (Psalm 8:3-4) Although God reveals himself in and through the wonders of God’s creation, this general revelation does not provide humankind with a personal relationship with God, the Creator. A veil of the original sin prevents humans to personally know God and to enjoy a relationship that only God can provide when we have faith in his Son Jesus Christ.

Fortunately God, who is love, did not want to leave the creatures God had made in God’s image away from God’s presence forever. "But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of children." (Galatians 4.4). When the time, kairos, came to fulfill the promise according to the plan of God, the Word became flesh like us (Mark 1:15). The Word of God came to rescue us all, we who couldn't rescue ourselves from the bondage of sin: Jews and Gentiles, men and women, rich and poor, privileged and marginalized. This is the Good News! This is the joy and peace God brings to our broken world, to all generations of humankind. God reveals and manifests himself in a new, personal and redemptive relationship with sinners!

In the early centuries AD, and before the celebration of Christmas, Epiphany was a celebration of both the birth and the baptism of Jesus. In some Christian traditions, Eastern Christianity, for instance, the celebration of Epiphany is still associated with the celebration of the baptism of Jesus, as a recognition of God’s manifestation to humanity as the Son of God. (Mark 1:9-11) To recognize Jesus Christ as the Son of God is to recognize Jesus as Lord (Acts 2:36) and as the King of kings and the Lord of lords (Revelation 9:16). In fact, to celebrate Epiphany should remind us of our own baptism, the initiation we have received to publicly identify ourselves with Jesus Christ, with his death and resurrection.

To celebrate Epiphany should lead us to celebrate the lordship of Emmanuel, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, because God has manifested himself to humankind in his Son so that through and in his Son we can know God and grow in relationship with God and with one another. Here is our prayer for the people called United Methodists wherever they may be serving in ministry and mission, and particularly for the members of the Commission on A Way Forward: In this year of particular challenges, let us celebrate Epiphany in the spirit of making Jesus Christ not only our Lord but also the Lord of lords.

"Jesus is Lord" is an old, if not the first, Church confession of faith. There are many lords who compete with the lordship of Christ in our lives today, whether it is through power, money, race, tribe, drug, sex, opinion, or ambition. At a time when we, as a denomination, are looking for ways of redefining our life together, as a worldwide Church in a troubled world, we need to keep Jesus Christ in our lives as the Lord of lords. It is through Christ and in Christ that the church is a body, having many and diverse members which exercise a variety of functions. Happy Epiphany celebration!

Bishops David Yemba, Sandra Steiner Ball and Ken Carter Moderators of a Way Forward