This time after Epiphany serves an important role in continuing what was introduced during the Christmas season, focusing on the means through which God is made manifest in the world in Jesus Christ.
Manifestation: big word; meaning an event, action, or object that clearly shows or embodies something, especially a theory or an abstract idea. There are also synonyms as follows; display, demonstration, showing, exhibition, presentation, illustration, expression.
In this New Year, so far, we have witnessed to the manifestation of Jesus as the Messiah through the visitation of the Magi. They were drawn by His star to witness to His coming among us. Next, there was the Manifestation of the Son through the baptism of Him by John in the river Jordan. This was indicated by the descending of a dove upon him and God announcing that “this is my Beloved Son, in Him I am well pleased.”
The second Sunday continues the manifestation motif with the wedding at Cana, where Jesus performs his first miracle, or “sign” as John calls it. Locating this revelation at a wedding makes it both ordinary and extraordinary—ordinary in that it happens at a familiar domestic ritual, one in which most people have either participated or attended; extraordinary in that Jesus does the unexpected by reserving the good wine for last, the exact opposite of what any reasonable host would do.
The manifestation motif continues on the third Sunday after Epiphany, where the lectionary again picks up Luke’s telling of Jesus’ ministry with his appearance in the synagogue. Christ reveals his glory by declaring that Isaiah’s words have been fulfilled at the moment they were uttered with Him unrolling the scroll before those gathered. The gospel for the fourth Sunday continues the scene of Jesus in the synagogue.
The miracle of the abundance of fish is the gospel for the fifth Sunday, another miracle that reveals God’s glory.
The sixth Sunday’s gospel—the beatitudes—is one of the most popular in the New Testament, although many people are more likely to quote Matthew’s version than Luke’s. In Luke, Jesus is concrete in the blessings and woes—these are not primarily spiritual concerns but socioeconomic realities that have direct consequences for the body of Christ.
These exact themes are continued in the seventh Sunday, in which Jesus continues his Sermon on the Plain. The social transformation that is central to Christ’s manifestation is brought home in his exhortation to do the opposite of common sense, to do that which is the most difficult for human beings. Forgiving those who have done wrong to us, the hard task proclaimed in the Lord’s Prayer, is modeled each Sunday when both strangers and friends embrace during the peace that precedes the communion liturgy.
The season of manifestations concludes with the Transfiguration of Our Lord. The claim that began this season (“You are my Son, the Beloved” at Jesus’ baptism) comes full circle and is made a public proclamation (“This is my Son, my Chosen” on the mountaintop). Jesus, Moses, and Elijah speak about Jesus’ departure (“exodus” in Greek) into Jerusalem, making this festival a bridge into the next large unit of the liturgical year: Lent, the Three Days, and Easter.
These various manifestations, beginning with the nativity and the visit of the magi, continuing through the various miracles and proclamations, and concluding with the transfiguration, demonstrate that God being revealed to the world brings about social disruption and transformation. The eternal Word, proclaimed on Christmas Day through John 1, is revealed through these earthly events and continues to be revealed today through word and sacrament, service and consolation.