Today – January 6 – is Epiphany – the twelfth of the twelve days of Christmas. It commemorates, in the Western church, the visit of the Magi – the Persian sages whose reading of the night skies lead them to Bethlehem, with gifts – gold of royalty, frankinscence as part of the incense of worship, and myrrh used as one of the spices to wrap a body after death – embodying their understanding of his identity.
Ephiphany means something like “manifestation” or “appearance.” The focus is on the startling revelation of Jesus as the Incarnate Son of God. In the Eastern church, Epiphany commemorates Jesus’ baptism – the moment at which the heaven’s were opened, the Spirit descended, and He was declared to be Who He was – the Beloved Son of God.
In Epiphany, we celebrate the gift of Jesus to the whole world. Here the two branches of the church may find common ground in that the Magi were gentiles. The revelation of Jesus as the Son of God – startling in itself – is made even more so with the declaration that He is so for the whole world, not just those who self-identify as God’s chosen people.
In the church calendar, Epiphany gives way to Ordinary Time which lasts until the beginning of Lent. Ordinary Time is that reminder that the wonder of Incarnation, the stunning awareness of God with us, reshapes, redefines, reframes all of our days. Incarnation is useless if it is just memorialized in annual holy-days but does not work its way into the fabric of every-days. The purpose of the holy-days is to allow for the re-calibration of our souls – to remind us, again and again and again, over and over and over, that life – our life – is more than what is seen all around us. That, in fact, wonder is afoot! We desperately need this persistent, consistent reminder – especially as wonder gives way to ordinary.
So, the tree is down – set out at the curb for pick up or stored away in its box for next year. The lights, which only days ago twinkled merrily against the backdrop of December darkness, look rather sad on the few houses on which they still remain. The gifts, given with such excitement and enthusiasm only twelve days ago, are now stacked with those of Christmas past – or, more likely, returned for what was wanted more.
But wait! There’s more! The King – born to die – has come for us all! Even Ordinary days are alive – electric – with His Presence for those who have seen His star, for those who have heard the Voice.