Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
Today marks the first Sunday of a season that is curiously named, Epiphany. Now why is this season we now celebrate, which follows the season of the Lord’s coming, called Epiphany of all things? Well what does Epiphany mean? I would describe an epiphany as an Aha moment or a moment of realization when the fullness of all that has or will happen has hit home. An example would be say during pregnancy. You and your spouse are about to be parents and you are prepping for the coming child. You know that you will be a parent, and you are mentally preparing yourself, but as soon as you hold your first child in your arms it is like everything changes. A fullness in this realization hits you like a wrecking ball; you are a Father; you are a Mother. Many of fathers have broken down in tears upon finally laying eyes on their first child, and the emotions that you vaguely knew were inside wells up and gushes out. You just had an epiphany.
The season of Epiphany is all about people, touched by the Holy Spirit, coming to realize that God did come down to Earth in the form of a virgin born baby, who grew up like all humans, died on the cross, went to Hell on our behalf, and then rose from the
grave sitting at the Father’s right hand side, sanctifying all who believe in Him. The season of Epiphany is all about celebrating
how the light of the world has opened our eyes to the Truth, how the Word has opened our ears to all that God has done for us, and how the Holy Spirit has opened our hearts towards the acceptance of Christ in our lives. This is what Epiphany is all about.
I am reminded of Peter’s epiphany, Matthew 16, after Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” What did Peter say? “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus’ response was, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” What happened to Peter was a miracle, for there is absolutely no way Peter could have had this epiphany and truly recognize Jesus as Christ had not the Father revealed this to him. The Miracle of Peter’s epiphany, was not of flesh, but because of the Holy Spirit, send by the Father, opened his eyes and ears and heart to the Truth.
I am also reminded of the Wise Men of whom this season also recognizes. We know not how they came to the realization, but somehow they realized that the King of the Jews was to be born, so they journeyed so that they may lay eyes upon this Christ Child. They had an epiphany, and I know with sheer certainty that this epiphany came from the Holy Spirit, for without the Holy Spirit there is no fathomable way that anyone, let alone these Wise Men, could have come to the realization about Christ. They had an epiphany and journeyed to see this Christ child and that is why we celebrate Epiphany after Christmas.
And here in today’s Gospel a baptismal epiphany of sorts is happening. For it says, “And when Jesus came up out of the water, immediately He saw the Heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’”
John was the voice in the wilderness, preparing the way for the coming King, preaching to all as he baptized many, cleansing them of their sins, that whereas his baptism is just of mere water, the Baptism from our Lord is more than water but also of the Holy Spirit. He was preaching this and telling all that compared to this coming King, he, John, is a nobody. Some may have heard, some may have vaguely understood, but without the Holy Spirit, no one could have fully grasped the depth of John’s words. He was talking about Christ!
And know Christ comes and is baptized, and upon being baptized a fantastic event for all to see unfolds. The heavens opens up, the Spirit descends not as a dove, but like a dove, and a mighty voice booms out of heaven, “You are my beloved Son.” To those listening, to those who witnessed this event, God is practically telling them, “Listen, this is my Son.”
I sure hope that upon that day many present had an Aha moment. God is literally telling all present that this Jesus person is His son.
Here is the thing about our Epiphanies. Because we are all fallen human beings it is impossible for us to know and love and have faith in God. We are all born with Original Sin, with Original
Guilt, that is we are all born lacking the ability to know and love and fear God, therefore we are all born doomed to Hell. On top of that, this sin acts as a veil that covers our eyes and prevents us from seeing the Truth; from seeing and acknowledging that Jesus is the Son of God.
Luther writes in the Small Catechism, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”
Because we are sinners, it is impossible for us to believe in Christ, but through the Miracle of God’s intercession we receive through the Holy Spirit the means of faith which compels us to have an epiphany. Peter’s epiphany was because the Father revealed to him that Jesus was Christ. The Wise Men received epiphanies through Scripture and dreams, which could have come only from God itself. And here in Scripture God the Father professes for all to hear that Jesus is His Son. Whether or not it is God the Father or God the Holy Spirit, God is pointing us towards God the Son and is providing for us our own epiphanies, for God knows we cannot do it ourselves.
Now do you remember last week’s sermon? I focused so much, throughout the service on “Mountain Proclamations”, ending Christmas with a bang, proclaiming that Christ is born and that we should face the world and as the song encourages, “Go Tell it on the Mountain, that Jesus Christ is Born.” As Christians, Jesus gave us one final command, to spread the good news, then
baptize, then teach. What naturally follows if we obey Christ’s commandment, proclaiming the Good News? People receive the Holy Spirit and through the Holy Spirit may come to have faith in God, people may have epiphanies. For Paul said in Romans 10, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”
The Season of Epiphany is a season of Aha Moments, when others finally see Christ and confess Him as their Savior, just like how we who were once lost received the Word and through the Word an Epiphany, confessing that Christ has indeed saved us. Yet how can others have epiphanies if they do not receive the Word? And how could they receive the Word if we do not preach and baptize? Therefore Epiphany is not only a season of Aha moments, but also a season of preaching and baptizing so that others may have these Epiphanies.
You receive the Holy Spirit when you hear the Word, but you also receive the Holy Spirit when you are Baptized, for baptism is not an act of Man, but an act of God when He places His seal upon you, gives you faith, and adopts you as heirs to the Kingdom. We don’t baptize because you have faith; that is called Confirmation. We baptize so that you may have faith. Therefore, I ask as we walk together in the light of God, thanking Him for providing us the Spirit which opened our eyes and receiving the Epiphany that Christ died so that we may be saved and He is Alive so that we may all be in union with, in, and under Him - I ask that we profess our faith to others, spread the Good News, encourage Baptisms, not waiting for someone to believe but to be
baptized so that they may believe, and to encourage the baptizing of infants, all for the sake that they too may receive an Epiphany through God and be saved through faith.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, you are the light of the World who shines in the darkness and reveals to us the Truth of the world, for without your revelations we who are sinners would be lost in the darkness. We thank you for being that light which not only came into the world to die for our sins but also for unveiling our eyes so that we may truly see our Savior and Lord. We ask that you help guide us as we go out to confess your salvation so that others may receive your Spirit and so too receive an epiphany. In your name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.