As Advent is realized in Christmas, and we prepare for a New Year, let us be open to Epiphany. The word Epiphany actually means “supernatural appearance” or “divine/spiritual visitation.” It happens in our Old Testament when the angel of the Lord appears to the fathers and mothers of the Hebrew faith. It happens to Mary and the shepherds and the wise travelers in the New Testament. Are we prepared for it to happen to us in the modern age? Do we still believe in such things?
Perhaps we will not see a heavenly host floating in the clouds, or angels casting a glowing halo, but the visitation of God’s Spirit is not only possible, but should be expected. Jesus himself promised the Spirit would be with us and within us. The Apostle Paul assures us that the Spirit is in us, gifting us, and producing good and bountiful fruit through us. We in the Wisconsin Conference are committed to live the fruit of the Spirit, to allow God to work in and through us, to partner with us in an ongoing and powerful Epiphany. God’s Spirit can be known by others in us!
The Apostle Paul does not invite us simply to believe that Jesus the Christ is God’s Son, nor does he tell us we should merely be like Jesus. He does not say that we should just follow the teachings of the Christ. No, Paul says that we ARE the body of Christ, and we are individually members of it (I Corinthians 12:27). This means that the Spirit of the living Christ is within us, and that in Christian community we become the incarnation of Christ in our world. A glorious Epiphany occurs where the divine appears in us, and we embody the goodness of God.
It is wonderful to enter a new year. The New Year’s celebration gives us a symbolic foundation to start over, to begin again – setting the old behind, and striving for the new. We do not need to dwell on what we have done wrong in the past, nor what we left undone. Instead, we can envision all the ways we can be faithful as we live each new day of the New Year. And if we will prayerfully seek God’s guidance and the empowerment of God’s Spirit in Jesus the Christ, God will do wondrous things through us. Through the Epiphany, we can bring more love into the world. It will foster joy and goodwill. It will work patiently for peace and justice. It will offer kindness, compassion and mercy. In and through us, others will see generosity and gentleness, faithfulness and a humble self-control. God’s Epiphany in God’s people is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
Let us make a holy offering of our past to God, releasing its hold of regrets and guilt, so that we might be ready to receive God’s Spirit anew. This is a time for new beginnings, a time to see what great things God is preparing to do with all of us in the Wisconsin Conference and beyond.
Grace and Peace,
Hee-Soo Jung, PhD
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).