On the Feast of the Epiphany

Today we celebrate God’s revelation of himself to the world, the Epiphany. In the Incarnation God showed us the very essence of himself. What did he want us to see? What is he like? What does he want us to know about him?

When God came to us at Christmas he came vulnerable. He came dependent; he came small. The letter to the Philippians tells us that he emptied himself. He was the refulgence, the shining-forth-ness, of the Father's glory (Hebrews 1:3), and we believe he will come again in glory, but at his first coming he laid aside the glory that is rightly his in order to come as a baby.

Sometimes it's easy to romanticize babies, to forget how needy they actually are, but here is a reminder for anybody who's been out of the baby zone for a while: brand-new babies are totally helpless — almost preposterously helpless. They can't even hold their own heads up! Newborns are the very opposite of self-sufficient.

The mighty God, the Alpha and Omega, the one called Faithful and True-- he set aside the honor that was his due and entered the world as a baby. Freely he took on the sufferings and indignities of infancy, and began his journey toward the sufferings and indignities of the Cross. "This is why the Father loves me," he says in the gospel of John, "because I lay down my life in order to take it up again." The great laying-down happened on Calvary, of course, but it was the culmination of a path that began when he chose to be laid down in a manger.

As we celebrate God’s revelation of himself to the nations at Epiphany, let us be willing to see the face of Our Lord in the least of these: in a fussy baby, in a struggling expectant mother. Let us remember that Jesus chose to be born while traveling, into circumstances that would require his earthly parents to flee to another country. For his sake let us look with tenderness on migrants and exiles, particularly the children among them, particularly those suffering in the midst of our current political polarization. Let us recall that Jesus came into the world to die a criminal's death for its sake, and let us pray with charity for those imprisoned and especially for those condemned to death.

Revelation 12 says that the woman clothed with the sun cried out in her labor as she prepared to bring forth her son. Romans 8 tells us that all creation groaned in labor as it prepared for its redemption, and that we ourselves groan inwardly as we await the fulfillment of our redemption. Let's pray for all those who have been suffering in this Christmas season, that they may know the joy and relief of new life through Christ. Let's take hold of the truth that Our Lord has fulfilled the words of the prophets and desires us to heed their call: Behold your God!