The Twelve Days of Christmas are almost over and this coming Sunday, January 6, is Epiphany Day, the commemoration of God’s revelation of the Christ Child to the Magi – a fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise that through his progeny God would bless all nations. This whole new season of Epiphany, from January 6 until Ash Wednesday’s beginning of Lent, is a series of revelations and reminders of God’s presence among all people.
Is there a better time to celebrate this marvelous epiphany? In the midst of dark and bleak midwinter most of us can use a dose of hope. Emotional cliffs still abound and Christmas bills are coming due. Therefore, Epiphany is a much needed season that focuses on God’s signs to us, divine revelations to get our attention, tangible and mysterious signs that God is with us.
However, prepackaged signs aren’t very convincing to me. In my opinion, by definition, you can’t pre-plan an epiphany. Don’t we all like the serendipity of spontaneous “Aha” moments when God suddenly pops up on our radars? It’s like what William Barclay meant when he said that there are two great days in a person’s life - the day we are born and the day we discover why. The latter is the kind of epiphany I want! In the rush, I sense the hush. You know what I mean. I hope.
When do your epiphanies occur? Is it during your devotions? Is it seeing some breath-taking view for the first time? Is it holding your grandchild? That’s what it was for me today. I spent a couple of hours enthralled with my 20-month-old granddaughter, Kaela, while her Mom and Dad had to go to an important meeting about their new house. I carried her around the United Methodist Center to see everyone, and then we had a picnic on my office floor. It was grand! My best epiphany of God’s presence today was when she toddled over, kissed me on the cheek and gently laid her head on my shoulder. What had been a dark crisis-laden day melted away into a sublime awareness that there’s a God that loves me. Kaela literally brightened my day!
I think that’s what most of us need spiritually and emotionally during this season of Epiphany. In our darkest worries and saddest moments, God shines a wondrous light. This is the story of how God’s voice is heard in most of our epiphanies. This is corroborated by Gene Wilkes who pastors the Legacy Drive Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. One of his Adult Bible Study leaders, Ed Gentry, wrote this in the class’ newsletter:
“When I was a kid, we used to go to my grandparents’ dairy farm for a week each summer and each Christmas. Each morning my grandmother would wake up at 4 a.m. and head out to the pasture to round up the cows and take them to the barn to be milked. I will never forget the day I came of age. It was announced that the following morning I would be allowed to get up and go with my grandmother as she performed her duties.
By the time grandma was ready to go the next morning, so was I… decked out complete with cowboy boots, plastic chaps, genuine leather holster, metal cap gun (spit polished and with a fresh roll of caps all loaded up), bandanna, cowboy hat, and if memory serves, she found me digging around, looking for a piece of rope to be used to wrangle the particularly reluctant ‘doggies.’
You can imagine my surprise when, as we started to walk to the barn, she began to softly call out the cows’ names into the darkness. By the time we got to the barn, the first few cows were lining up to come in and get milked. I don’t remember if the surprise knocked me off my feet or if I slipped on a cow patty, but I was really bothered. This was NOT how you were supposed to round up cattle!! It bothered me for a long time.
As we studied Psalm 23 last month, this memory came rushing back (yeah, it still bothers me a little). But for some reason, my vision is of God gently calling our names out in the dark as we walk through our lives. I think cattle prods would be much more effective, but Jesus says, ‘My sheep know my voice and I know them, and they follow me: and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of my hand’ (John 10:27-28).”
This so aptly describes my need this Epiphany season. As I tread along the unseen paths of 2013, I want to hear God’s voice. God is gently and longingly speaking our names in the darkness so that we can experience the grace that is sufficient for every time of need in Jesus Christ. Epiphany is a special time for us to perk up and listen!