Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Feast of the Epiphany

Today is the last day of the Christmas season, the Feast of the Epiphany. This day is the one where we celebrate the visit of the Magi, the Wise Men who come to visit the Baby Jesus.

On The Writer's Almanac, Garrison Keillor gives us some background:

"In the Eastern Church, which includes the Russian and Greek Orthodox Churches, today is a general celebration of God's becoming man. It includes celebrating a whole host of things: the birth of the baby Jesus, the revelation of Jesus' divinity to the rest of the world — like to the Magi visiting from Persia — and most importantly in the East, Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River.

Centuries after the Eastern Orthodox Church began celebrating the Epiphany, the Roman Catholic Church decided to start doing so too. But for some reason, the Western Church really latched on to this image of the Persian priests bringing gifts of frankincense, myrrh, and gold to the infant Jesus, guided from their homeland of Iran by a shining star. The Magi are mentioned only in Matthew's Gospel and he never specified how many magi there were — just that there were three gifts."

Today is a good day to think about wisdom, about gifts, about the shadow side of this story, which is Herod, who stews over this vision that the wise men have given him. We might think about all the ways we turn good news into bad, of the ways that we stew over our thoughts and turn them into poisonous actions. We might make an Epiphany resolution to watch our thoughts carefully and to track our actions even more carefully.

If you haven't already undecorated your house, today might be the day to do that, to transition back to the scrap of ordinary time that we have before the penitential season of Lent begins.

You might play the Christmas music one last time and take a contemplative moment. You might think about the Christmas season we just enjoyed (or did you just endure it?) and plan for next year. What didn't you do, and what did you wish you had done more of?

You might shop the post-Christmas sales, like the wise man or woman that you are. Now is a great time to buy Christmas cards for next year, to buy Christmas-scented candles, to pick up a bargain.

Most of us have already bid good-bye to Christmas and returned to our every day lives. Today is a good day to take one last Christmas moment, to recover our capacity for wonder, to delight in the miraculous, to look for the unexpected, and to rejoice in the amazing Good News of a God who loves us so much that the Divine One comes to live with us.

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