A brief word on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 2022
The Feast of the Epiphany is one of the major festivals of the Christian calendar that always falls on the same date: January 6th in the west. That means that unlike Easter or Pentecost, for example, it will always be associated with other, less biblical, more current events that overtake the news on that day, such as the insurrection at the Capitol last year.
Today, while our church celebrates and ruminates on the revelation of Christ to the nations – the arrival of the magi at the manger and their joyful homage to the child they recognized as the saviour of the world – the news cycle is full of analysis, unresolved shock, and grief over what happened and what so nearly happened to our nation a year ago today.
It’s the same strange juxtaposition, in a smaller and more focused form, as hits me every August, when the Feast of the Transfiguration, another epiphany of sorts, falls upon the anniversary of the American deployment of the first, devastating nuclear bomb at Hiroshima.
How do we reconcile the glory of Christ come into the world to save us from our sins, from ourselves, his healing mercies with our continuing and continual capacity to do harm to one another, as well as to our own souls and spirits?
And yet it is precisely that healing mercy, the revelation of the endurance and the depths that God’s love plumbs that allow us to lift our heads, to lift our feet, to lift our hearts and our hands, to continue to proclaim God’s goodness to the world and to live it out, with God’s help.
Yesterday would have been my mother’s 85th birthday, had she not died 16 years ago. She always loved that her birthday fell on Twelfth Night because, she said, it meant that all of the Christmas decorations came down just in time to accommodate her birthday cards. Epiphany has long been tinged with that memory for me.
Memories and anniversaries, events, demands, and distractions may conspire to trip us up on our way to the manger, threaten to cloud the star that leads the way. But the confluence of personal and public, sacred and secular calendars, the intersection of grief and hope are themselves redeemed by the reminder of new life, true light, the enduring mercies of God as revealed to us in the birth of Jesus Christ.
He is our guiding star, our king. He is our hope and our healer; he our way, our truth, our life. Come, wise ones: let us adore him.
Image: Book of Hours (Use of Rouen), c. 1470, Master of the Geneva Latini (active Rouen 1460-80), photographed at the Cleveland Museum of Art, January 2022