Today is the start of a New Year, a fresh start. I don’t know about you, but after 2016, I could use a fresh start.
But today is not just the beginning of the New Year. Christians throughout the world are celebrating Epiphany, the day when the Magi saw the star that led them to baby Jesus.
Epiphany means “appearance” or “manifestation.” In the ancient world, an epiphany was the appearance of a deity made manifest on earth.
People believed that the gods appeared in powerful rulers. The Pharaohs, Caesars, and other rulers were often viewed as divine. Because gods were viewed as all powerful, they were thought to reside in all powerful people.
Atheists often argue that humans create gods in our own image. These gods are just like us, only more powerful. Atheists have a point, especially if we think that the Pharaohs and Caesars are the best examples of the manifestation of the divine.
From an All-Powerful to an All-Vulnerable God
But Christians don’t believe that. Epiphany reminds us that God is not like the rulers who used power and violence to assert their wills. Epiphany tells us that God is not all-powerful. Rather, God is all-vulnerable. God manifests not in a violent ruler, but in a baby. What could be more vulnerable than that?
The magi saw a star that led them to a baby. When king Herod heard the news of the new-born king, he killed all the babies under the age of two. Make no mistake. Jesus was born into a world much like ours. A world of horrific violence.
Herod failed to kill Jesus, but political and religious authorities eventually put him to death. Even in the face of violence and death, Jesus did not mimic his persecutors. God is finally and concretely manifested in Jesus’ response of universal forgiveness on the cross and his offer of universal peace in his resurrection.
That is an Epiphany of the divine that the world has never seen before.
It reveals that God is not a violent power over and against, but vulnerable love that is for all people. May you have a happy 2017.
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