“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.” (Isaiah 60:1)
When I was young, I liked keeping the Christmas decorations – especially the nativity scene – up long after Christmas was over. I did not know why, but somehow it was stuck in my head that Jan the 6th or the 12th was a more auspicious day to finally take down the “fa-la-la-la” that was up. Did I know (even at a young age) that I was waiting for the day of Epiphany? Maybe; or it was just an innate sense that it was too soon for the Christmas season to be over.
The accusation has been made the Christmas has become too commercial or secular. That was a sentiment expressed when I was young. There still may be some truth to it; but I have met enough people who retain a spiritual amount of regard for the season, so I am not sure that is true. The commercial aspect of the season does seem more overt when Christmas decorations are taken down and Christmas merchandise goes on half price sale. It bothers me a little when that happens, but then I remind myself that Epiphany is still coming. Epiphany – “a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something” ; that is the dictionary definition that I found. And it does capture the season of the day; add to that it is the revelation of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles that is symbolized by the coming of the Magi, and I am as giddy as a child on Christmas day. The twelve days of Christmas (the song and the tradition) are based on the coming of the Magi as the final act of Christmas. This passage from Isaiah captures the sentiment quite well. The “Light” has come for all of humanity. And humanity is (or should be) glad for it.
“For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms. Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.” (Verses 2 – 5)
A tradition I often do (but not this year – see other posts for an explanation) is set up an Advent wall hanging that counts down the days 1 to 25 until Christmas. On the 25th I take down some of the appliques that represent each day, and leave enough to count down to Jan 6th. But instead of putting one applique on for each day, I take one off – counting down to Jan 6th and Epiphany. By then all of the prophecies made for the birth of Jesus Christ have been fulfilled.
“A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD.” (Verse 6)
Then, and only then, do I feel ready to tackle the new year.
“In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.
They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'”
“Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.” (Matthew 2:1-12)
I like that the Magi did not feel obligated to return to Herod. They were indeed “wise men”. I would like to believe they took their measure of the man, and did not feel he was sincere. Herod was, after all, a politician. It is said the the wise men sought out Jesus, and that thereafter wise people have continued to seek out Jesus the man and the Messiah. I guess after Epiphany and having seen were Jesus got his start, and appreciating anew the gift and blessing that He was to the world – especially this year having developed my theological telescope – I set out to find where Jesus is in the world and what new space I need to give the Divine in my heart, not to mention what new learning there will be for me in the coming year.
May you, beloved reader, in the midst of your New Year search for Jesus, learn from the Lord God, and make room in your life for the Divine. Shalom & Selah!