Epiphany gives us three stories of showing forth, when you bring the Eastern and Western traditions together, three stories in which the nature of Jesus is revealed in surprising and unexpected ways.
Today we start with the story of the wise men following a star to find the new king. The first visitors to the infant Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel are the wise men. Whoever they were, they were Gentiles. So, even though Matthew puts Jesus very much in a Jewish framework and his infancy stories are about portraying Jesus as the new Moses, Jesus is manifested first to foreigners. And that says that Jesus is for us too, all that he was, all that he did, all that he taught, was for us, for those who come because they have enough wisdom to follow the light and make the hard journey to come and kneel before the true king.
Then we get the story of the baptism of Jesus. The accounts show God proclaiming that Jesus is his son, and he is the Beloved, and God the Father is very proud of him. In all four Gospels, the baptism manifests Jesus’ divine origins.
And the triptych is completed with the story of the wedding at Cana, when the wedding feast, the messianic banquet, is enlivened by the new wine. Jesus is the one who transforms the ordinary water of our worship into better wine that you have ever tasted. Jesus brings in the kingdom of God which is fulfilled in the heavenly feast.
Three images, three stories which proclaim Jesus and make him known; three stories which shape what we think of Jesus and how we relate to him. All of them would have shaken the assumptions of those who first heard them.
But of course, Jesus is made known in so many other stories, in the lives of the apostles and other saints, in the gifts and kindnesses of humble folk, in the pursuit of justice and reconciliation, every time we present the word made flesh, every time we follow the way in faithfulness, proclaim the truth and reveal the light.
For example, in 2009 falls the 200th anniversary of the birth of Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species. There is an extensive programme this year to celebrate Darwin, including a series on BBC Radio 4 this week. I would argue that the search for scientific truth reveals Jesus, the Logos at the heart of creation, in whom all truth resides.
This works if you make the framework big enough, if you believe that this is God’s world and everything about it reveals God in some way.
So I invite you to open your eyes and ears today and look for manifestations of Jesus all around you. And allow yourself to be surprised.