The Manifestation of God in the Mission and Ministry of Christ Jesus
The Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord this Friday (6 January) is a kind of “hinge” between the Christmas and Epiphany Seasons. Focusing as it does on the visit of the Magi, this high and holy Feast is in some respects a “thirteenth day” of Christmas. Yet, it also begins a new season within the broader Time of Christmas, one that has its own nuances and emphases on the manifestation of the one true God in the flesh and blood of the incarnate Son, Christ Jesus.
Because of its focus on the visit of the Magi (St. Matthew 2:1–12), the Feast of the Epiphany has often been described as a “Christmas of the Gentiles.” And it surely does already anticipate the mission to the Gentiles, which is made explicit at the conclusion of the Holy Gospels (St. Matt. 28:18–20; St. Mark 16:15–16; and St. Luke 24:46–47). The Old Testament (Isaiah 60:1–6) and Epistle (Ephesians 3:1–12) appointed for the Feast of the Epiphany substantiate that emphasis.
In fact, the Epiphany of Our Lord embraces the manifestation of God in human flesh, not only in the Person of Christ Jesus (though uniquely so in Him), but so also in the ongoing mission and ministry of His Gospel. By the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in His Name, those who were far off and far removed from God are called and brought near to God in Christ that they might know Him and love Him and worship Him by faith. Consequently, the several gifts of the Magi are the confession of the Gentiles that Jesus Christ, “the Babe, the Son of Mary” (LSB 370), “the Child with His Mother” (St. Matthew 2:11), is King and God and Sacrifice. As traditionally noted, the gold confesses that He is King, the frankincense that He is God, and the myrrh that He is to be sacrificed, put to death, and buried for the sins of the world.
The Season of Epiphany is therefore an ideal time to focus on the Office of the Holy Ministry and on the Church’s collective work of evangelism, outreach, and world missions, as the glory of God in Christ Jesus is revealed to the nations in the preaching and administration of His Gospel.