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Happy Epiphany!

There is a traditional celebration following Christmas called Epiphany or Twelfth Night (because it occurs 12 days/nights after Christmas).  Though it has been a tradition for centuries, the celebration has a variety of meanings within and outside of the church.  Some acknowledge Epiphany as the time that the Magi arrived to see Jesus, guided by the star.  Other churches remember the baptism of Jesus on Epiphany.  Culturally, the Twelfth Night marked the last evening of the Christmas holiday for the working class in Victorian England and became the final day for holiday decorations to be displayed and carols to be sung in colonial America.  Whether faith-based or not, these traditional Twelve Days of Christmas are forever commemorated in songs and stories, and they continue to influence the etiquette of decorating and the length of winter breaks.

The word epiphany actually means revelation, and so to commemorate either the birth of Jesus or his baptism both seem appropriate as they are both revelatory in nature.  The Magi bore witness for the whole world that Jesus was born, Son of Man.  When the baby was grown, John baptized Jesus and the voice of God himself confirmed Jesus as the Son of God (see Matthew 3:13-17).  It may be that celebrating both his birth and baptism together, however mixed up, is really a great way to acknowledge the mystery that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine.  

While we may find the divine nature of Jesus hard to comprehend, Paul simply writes, “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9).  Those who walked the earth with Jesus, who ate a meal with him, who talked with him, actually walked and talked and ate with God!  Jesus made this kind of encounter possible as God with us.  Moreover, his power to heal and forgive and perform miracles are evidence of his deity.  The one present at creation (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15-16) then commanded the wind and the waves (Matthew 8:26; Mark 4:39; Luke 8:24).

As we begin to grasp that Jesus is God, it then can become equally difficult to understand Jesus as human, but this co-mingling of God and humanity is important to wrestle with and try to appreciate.  The author of Hebrews outlines why it is so important that Jesus lived a human existence:
Since the children are made of flesh and blood, it's logical that the Savior took on flesh and blood in order to rescue them by his death. By embracing death, taking it into himself, he destroyed the Devil's hold on death and freed all who cower through life, scared to death of death.
It's obvious, of course, that he didn't go to all this trouble for angels. It was for people like us, children of Abraham. That's why he had to enter into every detail of human life. Then, when he came before God as high priest to get rid of the people's sins, he would have already experienced it all himself--all the pain, all the testing--and would be able to help where help was needed.
Hebrews 2:14-18 MSG

As we enjoy the final few days (or so) of Christmas and transition back to our everyday lives, perhaps we can do so while pondering the wonder of Jesus fully divine and Jesus fully human.  Our world is certainly in need of the best in humanity, and even more in need of a loving and powerful God.  In the humanity of Jesus we recognize the value of every human life, the worth of our bodies and significance of how we relate to one another on this earth.  In the divinity of Jesus we can find hope and peace for the present as well as faith for eternity.  Jesus spoke order out of chaos at creation, calmed the wind and waves, and is still alive and active to bring meaning and purpose to our present storm.

Happy Epiphany!

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