Living Columns & Blogs

Understanding God’s epiphanies

For many Christians around the world, Epiphany is the celebration of Christmas. The Magi who brought gifts to the child Jesus signified that God’s incarnation was meant for all people, not just those who lived in Bethlehem, Jerusalem or Nazareth. They traveled from a long distance to visit this special child, aware that something new and wonderful was breaking into human existence.

Through God’s message to them and the star they followed, through the new Messiah come from God, epiphanies were abounding. They were all manifestations of God’s presence in real human events. That’s what an epiphany is — a star that appears to guide people on their way, the birth of a child, the presence of justice for those who know only injustice or the vision of a new and different way of life through insight from scripture or in the present as the wonders of God’s love and grace are experienced anew.

As we begin another calendar year, it’s appropriate to take time to reflect on the wonders of the ways that God’s epiphanies still break into our lives, even in these sometimes frightening and disturbing times. It’s a time to anticipate the ways that God might use us to be the agent for God’s epiphany to be revealed. The strange upside down nature of God’s epiphanies are not equal to our own successes in this world. They do not happen because we accumulate many possessions, experience a win over someone else or achieve honors and adulation for something we have accomplished. Rather, they happen when we are humble and open to receive the gift. In Scripture, most of God’s epiphanies come among those who are marginalized, among the poorest of the poor, in the rejected and out of the way places where many of us may be uncomfortable.

When epiphanies happen, they change life for us. Epiphanies call us to live our lives in a different way — they call forth a response from us, relying on God’s love and grace. We can no longer just sit back and ignore the need or injustices we may see around us. The star may lead us on a journey to new places we never anticipated or ever expected to see. We may be led to a much richer, fuller life, because we have been transformed by our encounter with God’s epiphany, enabling us to do things we might never have imagined were possible.

My prayer for each person this coming year is that our eyes may be opened to the possibilities and the grace of God’s epiphanies in our world. They will not come in the obvious places, but rather along the edges and amid the humble and lowly. May we develop a trust and confidence that though we may not see the results of God’s work in our time, we may be the planters of seeds that will grow in God’s time, we may lay foundations for a future that God will complete. May you know the beginning of something new where God’s grace enters in and be surprised at the marvel of the new life God brings. Happy New Year!

Ann Graves is a retired pastor in the United Church of Christ who lives in State College. You may contact her at