For as the new heavens and the new earth,
which I will make,
shall remain before me, says the Lord;
so shall your descendants and your name remain.
From new moon to new moon
and from sabbath to sabbath,
all flesh shall come to worship before me,
says the Lord. (Isaiah 66:22-23)
One of the Principal Feasts of the church year, the Epiphany celebrates the “Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles,” as our Prayer Book calendar calls it (BCP 31). The wise men stand in for the whole Gentile world (that is, all of us) as they see and recognize in the child Jesus the promised salvation of the world.
Listen to one of the prayers for mission that we commonly use at Evening Prayer:
“O God and Father of all, whom the whole heavens adore: Let the whole earth also worship you, all nations obey you, all tongues confess and bless you, and men and women everywhere love you and serve you in peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (BCP 124)
Christ’s coming is for all, not just for the Jews, not just for the Orthodox or the Catholics, not just for the Lutherans or the Presbyterians or the Calvinists, not just for the Anglicans or the “real” Anglicans, not just for my parish or for yours, but for all.
Our religious tendency toward exclusivity does not serve God’s purpose of bringing light to all — to the whole earth, all nations, all tongues, men and women everywhere.
In the readings appointed for this Eve of the Epiphany, Isaiah points toward that future day when all flesh will worship God together, and Paul prays on behalf of the Romans (Gentiles like us): “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing through the power of the Holy Spirit” (BCP 126).
“All joy and peace.” Joy and peace to all. That’s a fitting note on which to begin our worship this Epiphany.