Today, January 6th, is Epiphany – the 12th, and last, Day of Christmas. It is holy day celebrating the appearance of God to human beings – a day of awareness, of revelation. In the Western church, it commemorates the visit of the Wise Men, bringing their gifts to the young child Jesus in Bethlehem, after first having gone to Jerusalem where they reasonably expected the new king would have been born. Their mistaken assumption set in motion the fulfillment of the prophecy – Ramah weeps as innocent children are executed by Herod’s jealous fear. Their gifts – gold, frankincence, myhrr – tell the story of this young child – royalty, deity, and deep grief are the marks of His life. Their very presence in the most Jewish of the gospels marks the inclusion of the Gentiles in the Good News of the Incarnation. God has come for them, as well. Ironically – prophetically – the gentiles are wise in the understanding of the way of God in a way that the jewish leaders of the day were not. Thus, epiphany – a deep, revelatory awareness – God is present with us!
In the Eastern church, Ephiphany is the feast that focuses on the baptism of Jesus, a trigger event fulfilling righteousness, and signalling the transition from the way-making ministry of John the Baptist, Elijah come at last, to the Way of Jesus – which, as it turned out, was confusing even to John, not being quite what he expected. On the river bank, John sees his cousin in a new light – Jesus is the Lamb of God, come to take away the sins of the world. Thus, epiphay – a deep, revelatory awareness – God is acting to save us!
But what is the point of the seeing if it doesn’t enable the living? And so, Epiphany also marks the end of Christmas and ushers in a lovely time in the church calendar year called Ordinary Time. It is fascinating to me that it should be called so. Surely, the time lit up by the stunning revelation of God with us and God for us would fit whatever criteria might exist for catapulting right into Extraordinary Time! But no. This is what Ordinary looks like. This is the new normal. This is now business as usual. This is the gift of God come down.
Those to whom revelation has come – those who experience Epiphany – may now walk out their ordinary, every day lives, vibrating with the full awareness of the deep mystery of redemption at work in the Universe. They are never alone, in spite of the pain. They know Who is Who – and what is what! Meaning has come flooding back. God has come in love and mercy. The new normal. Ordinary time – filled with sufficient grace. No big deal.