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.
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.