I packed up the porcelain wise men, camels, and baby Jesus which were prominently displayed on the fireplace mantle with fresh Christmas greens, now stiff and tarnished by dryness. The lights adorning my house taken down and stored. The trappings of Christmas have slipped back into my upstairs storage closet as I prepare for the liturgy of annual January house cleaning. I’ve spent most of my life learning to inhabit the Christmas story well, with all its intrigue, gift-giving, and ‘tis-the-season-ings. I’ve traveled far and wide seeking how to celebrate Jesus and his gift of Presence-With-Us. But now I ask myself, as the Church pivots into third season of light and wonder known as Epiphany, how do I inhabit Epiphany as a follower of Jesus?
January 6 on the Church calendar marks Epiphany, the twelfth day and end of Christmastide and the beginning of a long season also known as Ordinary Time until Ash Wednesday. During these weeks, the Scriptural readings recount stories of those who travel far to see Jesus, those gathered to hear Jesus’ teachings, those who experience the heaven’s open with descending Spirit-dove resting on Jesus and the Divine Voice revealing Divine Love in Jesus.
Epiphany, as a seasonal theme in our Christian faith and practice, is meant to train the soul to attentively detect the sacred “aha” moments; those uncanny conscious explosions of senses and spirit when we are caught in the cross-fire of Light, Truth, Love, known as the Incarnation as heaven intersects earth in the person of Jesus Christ. In awe, we continue to breathlessly behold the striking appearance of Jesus – with and within us – right in the middle of our everyday rhythms and routines.
Another facet of the season engages our love of for the childhood classroom activity of show and tell. Epiphany is a season of witness. Mary Oliver, an American poet and Pulitzer Prize winner captures the heart-beat of Epiphany as she succinctly writes:
TELL ABOUT IT
So how do I personally inhabit the Season of Epiphany? I take my cue from one of the traditional Epiphany passages in Scripture: John 1:36-39. I look and listen for the unusual things and people that point me to the striking appearance of Jesus…those eye-catching glimpses which cause me pause, lead me to inquire, open my understanding to the new, the wonder-filled, the Divine – to who and what Jesus is among us. They come in all shapes and sizes and descend on my day like doves from heaven. A friend’s forgiveness of my inconsistencies in love. A mentor’s caring advice for rest. An employer’s acceptance of my failures. A sunset walk after work. A tender hug from an unexpected acquaintance sensitive to my human need for affection. These pointers all lead me to grasp a Reality that is both simple and striking – God comes in tender human graces that embrace and enfold me and help me along life’s way. I, than in turn, changed by the moment, the touch, the Epiphany aha…share what I’ve encountered with others. I too, get to enter the seasonal activities of show and tell as I become a pointer to others; helping them see Jesus more clearly and experientially.
In the Season of Epiphany we might want to ask ourselves the same question Jesus asked his first followers: What are you looking for? (John 1:38). And then, invite others to Come and See (John 1:39).
– Elizabeth Khorey