Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Longer Epiphany

I've often wished that the season of Epiphany was just a little bit longer, and not just because it would give me a little more time to get ready for Lent to begin.  It is also possible that I like long Epiphanies because there is a better chance that (at least here in Minnesota) Easter will be a warm spring day with some flowers blooming, which is the way I imagine it should be.

But I also just like Epiphany, as a season, even though, I confess that I don't think of it as much as I ought to.  It is that obscure little season between Christmas and Lent.  Christmas is famous.  Everyone has heard of it, even people who don't ever go to church.  Many people are also vaguely aware that there is something called "Lent", partly because of its reputation as that season when people have to 'give something up.'  But Epiphany?  What's that?  It's an odd word really, that most people don't even use or know.   Even as a Christian-in-the-know, I can't help but think but think of Epiphany as that 'sandwich' season:  a smattering of Sundays after the big high of Christmas, but before the serious discipline of Lent.

Friends, it should not be so.  Epiphany is a season.  It is a season that begins with the wise men following a star to Bethlehem, and ends with Jesus' face shining on a mountain.  In between, we get stories about light, and stories about Jesus calling his disciples.  We get the story of Jesus' baptism and stories of him healing people.  But why?  Why these particular stories right now?  They are small windows of light, small revelations of who Jesus is in the world, and of who we are in the world, as well.

The word Epiphany actually means, literally "a showing forth, a revealing."  An epiphany is a revelation, a flicker or a flash of light, a moment when you said, "aha!" and just knew something, without studying or going through all of the steps.  Or maybe you WERE studying:  you were reading a book, or doing the research, or singing a song at church, or sitting at your desk at work, and in the midst of it all you had an epiphany, which is to say, that the truth just came to you, not as the fruit of your studying, but just as you were going along, in your working, in your playing, in your worshipping.

In some religious traditions, the season of Epiphany is also called "Ordinary Time."  As opposed to, for example, Christmas and your wedding and other high moments of your life.  But perhaps that is one of the reasons that I like it.  Most of our lives are, actually, ordinary time.  I wouldn't trade the high moments for anything, but the promise of Epiphany is that the light shines also on ordinary days.  So it goes like this:  when you are going about your working, studying, playing, regular Sunday morning worshipping life, suddenly, somehow, something will happen, and you will say, 'aha!', and you will know, just know, who Jesus is.  And you will know who you are, as well.  It could be as small a thing as a handful of water, shimmering, a line that leaps out at you from a book, or a song, a small piece of a small conversation that you had, just because you showed up.

So I sometimes wish that Epiphany could be a little longer, just a few more days to hear healing stories and be surprised by the possibility that God could be in this place, although we did not know it.  I do wish that Epiphany could just a little longer, although I suspect that it is the nature of the season to be fleeting, just as fleeting as our ordinary lives.

In the meantime, sing songs about the light, the light of a candle, the flame of the fire, the light in the darkness.

For that is who you are.

2 comments:

Linda McMillan said...

It is long enough to lull me into complacency. Then when the seasons start up again: Whoosh... I am a little taken aback, and I have to splash water on my face, and it's time to go again.

Diane Roth said...

interesting perspective.

I hope that Eiphany does not lull me into complacency.

Of course, we never used to call it "Ordinary time." The whole thing was Epiphany for us.

One of my pastor friends used the Epiphany season in the congregation to highlight Christian mission in different parts of the world.