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The Pain of Epiphany

My Facebook feed has been blowing up with Epiphany posts lately. You may have noticed that some of your friends have recently observed Epiphany and wondered what the fuss was all about.

Epiphany is the “Twelfth Day of Christmas,” celebrating the revelation of God. Typical stories on and around this day include the Wise Men following the star, the baptism of Jesus, and the changing of water into wine at the Cana wedding — all examples of God revealing Jesus Christ to the world. 

I have noticed that the word “epiphany” has made its way into popular culture, usually described as a grand and glorious “aha!” moment. But quite often, epiphanies can be painful. 

Consider the man who denies that he drinks too much, only to wake up one day to find that his addiction has ruined his marriage and health.

How about the overbearing woman who discovers that her desire to control has cost her a number of friendships?

Many people go through life making excuses about their bad behavior or lack of success, and in a flash, their “aha!” moment becomes an “oh, no!”

If this is you, take hope. For unpleasant epiphanies are actually gifts from God, shining bright lights into the dank and dark recesses of our souls. I think about Saul, the murderous Pharisee who was convinced that he was doing right by persecuting Christians – until a flash of light, accompanied by a heavenly voice, KO’ed him. When Saul picked himself up, he discovered he was blind – hardly a giddy revelation. Eventually, the scales fell from his eyes, and Saul became “Paul” (meaning small or humble one). The hidebound Pharisee became the Apostle of Grace, setting him on a fresh path that changed the world.

You may not become a world-shaking missionary, but God wants to shake your world. Christ is all about rousing us from our slumbers, shouting a wake-up call so we can reveal His life-changing ways to others. Phillips Brooks, the composer of “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” once said, “Let (each person) catch the revelation of Jesus in his resurrection. Let (that person) say not merely, ‘Christ is risen,’ but ‘I shall rise.'” 

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