Christ Shining Through by Cheryl TenWolde

This month as we enter Epiphany, it becomes apparent to us that the days are feeling visibly longer; what began with the Winter Solstice is now being manifested more and more each day. The word “epiphany” means the lowest point of light shining forth. The beginning of the season of Epiphany is a public holiday in many countries. It marks two events in Jesus Christ’s life that showed his Divinity. The first event was when the Wise Men visited Jesus. The Radiant Star they followed symbolizes the showing forth, or “illumination” of God to all people. The identity of Jesus is symbolized by the gifts they brought him: Gold, symbolic of wealth to a King; Frankincense, symbolic of adoration to one Divine; and Myrrh, symbolic of self-sacrifice to one who would die.

Another event marked by Epiphany is the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptizer. This is the second event in which the divinity of Jesus Christ is manifested. In Greece and some other countries, this important holiday has some beloved customs. On the Eve of Epiphany, the first sanctification takes place in the church. Afterwards, the priest goes from house to house holding a cross and a basil branch. As he walks through each house, he sprinkles all areas to bless them, and sprinkles the people too. Epiphany is a wonderful time for house blessings.

On the following day, a procession forms outside for the big sanctification. All of them follow whatever road leads to the largest body of water: it may be only a fountain, or maybe the great sea. The priest throws a cross into the sea to bless the waters, and all who dare to compete dive into the icy cold water and strive to be the one to retrieve the cross. That person is thought to enjoy good luck and health for the entire year. As the cross is held up high by the winner, the priest releases a white dove as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Thus, not only the finder of the cross is blessed, but the entire village is renewed in the spirit.

We can each renew our Baptismal Vows this Epiphany Season. We do not need to plunge into icy cold waters to hold high the cross of Christ. We are all blessed and “christened” by means of our baptism, and through this covenant, we are ambassadors of Christ. As such, we are each an epiphany” to other people in the world.

This month we are invited to look backward and forward to see where we have been, and where we can possibly go. We have been given gifts “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12).” Renewing our baptismal vows means we can renew our commitment to something we have already been doing, or maybe we can consider doing something new. Some gifts given to us are to be artists, musicians, crafters, teachers, visitors of shut-ins, shoppers for food banks, lectors, accountants, generous donors, worship leaders, cooks, bakers, talkers, listeners and many other gifts. What if right now some of us feel powerless to do anything? Maybe we can pray. If we feel too weak even to do that, we can allow others to pray for us. That may be the most difficult thing – to allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to do nothing but allow the prayers of others to surround us. If we keep God at the center of our lives, Christ will come shining through us to the world.

Almighty God, Whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that thy people, illumined by thy Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth. (from the collect of the Third Sunday in Epiphany)

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