Epiphany and Plugging In

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REFLECTION

Epiphany: Plugging In

Justin Huyck, St. Michael Pastoral Associate

A number of winters ago, an interesting post-Christmas commercial appeared. In this commercial, a dejected man stands looking at his suburban home, adorned with the brightest Christmas lights imaginable, complete with music and moving Christmas characters. In an act of sad resignation, the man unplugs his loud display: Christmas is over. But then, his neighbor delivers a message of joy: there are still Christmas deals to be had at the stores! (A particular electronics store of course!) Christmas goes on! And, with new purpose, the man plugs everything back in.

Although kitschy and consumeristic, this commercial  seems to align with our liturgy’s invitation: that we allow Christmas to linger and then lead us into the rest of the year.

In our Roman Catholic tradition, the Christmas season continues through this weekend's Solemnity of the Epiphany, and indeed doesn't wrap up until next week's celebration of the Lord's Baptism. Likewise, many Christians in other denominations will retain the name “Epiphany season” until the season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. What sense can we make of this, we who may have already boxed away our Christmas decorations? Perhaps a lingering Christmas might be exactly what we need as we combat a lingering pandemic.

A look back might help: In earlier Christian centuries, the December 25 Christmas, popular in western Christianity, was complemented by a January 6 celebration of Christ’s birth and “Epiphany,” popular in eastern Christianity. In fact, this eastern celebration of Christ’s Epiphany was, and is, a celebration of the several “manifestations” or “epiphanies” (in the plural) of Christ to the world. These include not only his birth and appearance to the travelling star-led magi but also, in a special way, his baptism as an adult in the Jordan, a model for our own rebirth in the waters of baptism. The Epiphany tradition even manages to include a third story of Jesus introducing himself by turning water into wine at the Cana wedding (as festive a story as any other!).

Over time, the Christmas and Epiphany traditions influenced one another, giving many Christians in both east and west the opportunity to celebrate the birth of baby Jesus on December 25, and Christ’s “epiphanies” to the world on January 6 (or the closest Sunday). But western Christians have tended to place Epiphany’s focus on the journeying magi and the star that guided them, and pushed the celebration of Jesus’ baptism to next Sunday. As for the Cana wedding story: this event is featured every third year – but not this year – on the second Sunday of Ordinary Time.

There is wisdom in this stretching of Christmas and Epiphany-time, giving us the room to linger in our re-introduction to this Jesus, not simply as precious babe in a manger, but as the beloved Son of God, baptized for ministry and mission. Like the searching magi, we seekers rejoice in Jesus whose light of hope stretches to all peoples of our troubled world, and maybe even to us. Like the puzzled river-goers at the Lord’s baptism, we baptized but bumbling believers begin to wonder what it would mean to wade deeper into the waters with Jesus, embracing the life of Christ. And like the stunned wedding guests at Cana, we experience Jesus as God’s overflowing love that transforms water into wine, darkness into light, and death into life. These epiphany stories persistently remind us that, though the Christmas season may be ending, we are in fact just getting started: with our year, with our celebration of Jesus, and with our own mission as Christ’s disciples.

And so perhaps it is time for us, like our friend plugging back in his Christmas lights, to get “plugged back into” Christ our light, and to get plugged back into his mission. As we move from Christmas into the rest of the year, we will hear more about this mission and why it is good news for us and for our world. We know we have much to do if we are to address sickness and pain, violence and injustice; if we are to heal the brokenness and distrust in our families and communities. We know how hopeless the darkness sometimes seems. Our world often seems clouded in darkness (Isaiah 60 – Epiphany lectionary reading), and our lives in grief and despair. Sometimes, it may seem as if we can do nothing, as if all hope is gone.

MASS READINGS - JAN 3 (EPIPHANY)

And yet, hope is not gone. In these moments of darkness, let us heed the wisdom of these days: let us center all that we do in Christ our hope – the light that shines upon us and within us. Like Jesus at his baptism, may we be energized by the Holy Spirit for his mission of peace, justice, and healing. In the year ahead, may we be a light of hope for our families, our communities, and our world.

If you would like to discuss more about the connection between Christmas, Epiphany, and Baptism, join us for this week's "Catholic Conversation" - Tuesday, January 5th at 7pm by Zoom. Email justin@stmichaelcanton.org for a link.

Photo Credit: CreativeCommonsmezzoblue (flickr). Some rights reserved.

FOR DISCUSSION AND REFLECTION

The Magi and Lessons for Discipleship


What Lesson can I learn from the Magi about discipleship (how to follow Jesus)?


 

Christmas and Epiphany Celebrations Around the World


In what ways can these various cultural and domestic celebrations of Christmas center us in our Christian faith and inspires us to live discipleship (follow the way of Jesus)?

MORE ABOUT EPIPHANY IN EAST AND WEST (FROM PRAYTELL BLOG)


More about Ukranian Catholic Christmas Eve in Ontario (January 6)

Feast of Theophany ("Jordan") in Ukraine (Mid-January) 

 

 


Three Kings Day in Spain

Feast of the Three Kings in the Philippines

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catholic Conversations

Reflections and Resources for Weekly Catholic Conversations


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Epiphany and Plugging In

Tuesday, January 5, 2021
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