Jan 6 2013

Natural Epiphanies

RM343Today is Epiphany Sunday.   On this day the church pauses to remember a number of things.  First and foremost we remember that God made Himself known through the child born at Bethlehem (John 1:14).  The word “epiphany” refers to a revelation or manifestation.  There can be no denying that God is revealed most clearly in Jesus Christ but on this Sunday the Western church also recalls the visit the Magi or Wise Men paid to Bethlehem and how they presented the Christ Child with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2:9-12), while the Eastern church tends to emphasize Jesus’ baptism and how God affirmed His Son at that particular moment (Matthew 3:16-17).  Still others use Epiphany to focus on Jesus’ first miracle, the turning of water to wine at Cana (John 2:1-11).  Needless to say, there is much to remember or think about on Epiphany Sunday.

BB0153As I’ve thought about the biblical stories associated with Epiphany it has dawned on me that nature played a key role in each story.  It was a star (or some special astronomical phenomena) that led the Magi to the house where Jesus resided.  It was in the waters of the Jordan River that Jesus was baptized and received his Father’s affirmation.   At Cana it was ordinary water that was turned into the best wine anyone had tasted.  Does it surprise you that God used elements of His Creation in each example?  It shouldn’t.  As noted many times at this site, God often uses Creation to reveal Himself and His ways to us.

I believe for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear that there are natural epiphanies every single day.  Through God’s “Other Book” we are given countless opportunities to learn about and experience God.  The key here is, of course, having the “eyes to see” and the “ears to hear.”  Or perhaps I should say the key is using our “eyes to see” and “ears to hear” because most of us already have what we need to experience God through His Creation.  It’s just that some people don’t understand that they can find God there or they fail to take the time to look and listen.

chickadee-in-snow-283Since it is the beginning of a new year I want to encourage you (and myself) to make a special effort in the coming months to look and listen more carefully for God’s natural epiphanies.  Try to remember each day that God has much to say and much to teach us through the world that He has made.  Who knows what all we will see and hear if only we make a concerted effort to look and listen?  I only know that it will be good because behind Creation stands one incredible God who loves us all very much.  My suspicion is He has a lot of good news to share with us this year.  I look forward to finding out what that good news is.  Don’t you?


(I took the top image at Roan Mountain State Park in TN, the middle image at Big Bend National Park in TX, and the bottom image at my home in Pikeville, KY.)

Jan 6 2010


Jenny-Wiley-SP-sunset-Today, January 6, is Epiphany, an annual Christian feast celebrating the manifestation of the divine nature of Jesus to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi or Wise Men.  The word “epiphany” means a revelatory manifestation of a divine being.   For Christians there can be no denying that the coming of Jesus was the greatest epiphany of all.  In him God was revealed or made manifest like at no other time.  In the words of theologian John A. T. Robinson, in Jesus we see “the human face of God.”

There are, however, many other epiphanies recorded in the Scriptures.  Examples include the burning bush Moses encountered, Isaiah’s vision in the Temple, and the cloud espied by Peter, James and John at Jesus’ Transfiguration.  In a sense, the whole Bible is the record of God making Himself known in one way or another.

On this day of Epiphany I would simply like to remind you that the God who made Himself known in so many different ways in the past continues to make Himself known to us today.  God is not someone who tries to hide from us.  Instead, He longs for us to know Him better.  In the Scriptures many of God’s epiphanies made use of nature (wind, fire, water, etc.).  I believe they still do.   

John Muir once wrote, “Now all of the individual ‘things’ or ‘beings’ into which the world is wrought are sparks of the Divine Soul variously clothed upon with flesh, leaves, or that harder tissue called rock, water, etc…”  God’s Creation has, indeed, been fashioned so that we can experience the Creator behind it.

So why don’t we see God more often in nature?  Perhaps it is because we fail to look for Him there?  Maybe we’ve even been conditioned to think He can only speak in churches or through sacred writings.  The God who made the universe is free to reveal Himself whenever and wherever He chooses.   The Scriptures remind us that God’s epiphanies often occur in nature.  Shouldn’t that cause us to look around us more carefully?


(The image above was taken at Jenny Wiley State Park in Prestonsburg, Kentucky.)