The Epiphany of the Lord - The Lessons of Christmas

The Christmas season comes to an end much more quickly than all of our preparations for its arrival.  Light flows throughout today’s scripture and liturgy. Isaiah proclaims “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem. Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines on you.” In the Gospel the Christmas star becomes a brilliant guide for the magi to the child and his mother in Bethlehem.  But as we begin a new year there is still darkness, there is still chaos and there is still turmoil – for the world community and for the Church as well.

In the world community, we still face the good, the bad and the ugly.  We can point to the terrible evils that exist in our world:  the destructive powers of suffering and death as evidenced by the horrible stories rising from Ukraine, Israel, Palestine, Sudan, and other parts of the globe. And just as significant is the continuing exploitation of the poor and the marginalized in society and the frightful inequalities based on race or color or sex.  How does one find the saving presence of God in the midst of such a world?
It was a year of turmoil for the Church as well, much of which still lingers within our hearts and souls from years past, and only seems to be getting worse. We always seem to be in the midst of crisis - a lack of faith in our leadership, the misuse of ecclesiastical power, and the mistrust of those who may believe differently than we. The Synodal call for a more inclusive church with a stronger voice for the laity in the life of the Church is met with fear and apprehension and in many instances with rejection. Our people – and now, even our leadership, continue to be polarized into separate camps.  How does one find unity and communion in the midst of such chaos?

So we need to reflect over and over again about the lessons we are taught at Christmas.  

“Epiphany” comes from a Greek word that means “revelation,” or “manifestation” -  words which attempt to describe God’s saving actions for the whole human race. It may seem that the Light of God is absent amid the brokenness of the world, yet God continues to reveal Himself in very ordinary ways:  in the quiet courage of those who suffer patiently; in the manifest heroism of those who risk - and sometimes lose - their lives to save others; in the vigilance of those who defend our land and our values; in the gentle compassion of those who seek out the poor and the hungry; in the day by day faithfulness of spouses, of workers, of leaders, of scientists, of those who quietly work to bring people together in all segments of our society.

The Epiphany invites us to become these kinds of people.  It is the festival of Light reminding us that God manifests Himself to us in the most unforeseen and unexpected circumstances.  Today we celebrate God’s immense love for all peoples, of all generations. We can’t restrict God’s love to just a few “special people.” God’s arms are open to all people and God’s embrace brings mercy and forgiveness.

We begin a new year as an Epiphany people.  For those of us who leave the familiar and follow a distant light we may find ourselves in a place we never would have imagined going. There we will meet the divine - but in disguise, of course. For the Magi it was the infant in the crib. For us, the journey may take us to an entirely new place - one whose path may take a sudden change from our planned direction, toward a light that will never disappoint in any darkness we will encounter.