Throughout the U.S. Christmas decorations are put away and people are returning to life as usual after the holidays. Yet, in the Catholic Church the decorations remain as we celebrate the Feast of Epiphany, or little Christmas, marking the coming of the magi to see Jesus. If you are anything like me, it is difficult to feel like Christmas again. I’m ready to return to “ordinary life” and my “routine.” Much as I love Isaiah, I’m ready to go back to my study of the Psalms. But the church liturgical calendar is telling me that, contrary to what society my say, the celebration is not over yet. In fact it is just beginning!
Epiphany means to reveal. It’s that “aha” moment when you finally grasp a concept or come to a new understanding of something you thought you knew. The three kings are seeking a king. They follow his star until they lose sight of it. Not knowing what to do, they consult the local king, Herod, who consults his religious leaders, who consult Scripture and send the kings to Bethlehem. On their way the star returns and leads them to a baby in a manger. When God revealed himself to the nations, he came as a baby, born in a lowly estate not a palace, an ordinary occurrence.
The reading from Isaiah tells us: “Arise and shine, for your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” (60:1) Get up, get moving, your God has come to light your way and you are to be a light as well, allowing God’s brightness to reflect from you.
The imagery is beautiful. The people of Zion are characterized as a woman lying down who is instructed to get up. In verse 4, they are instructed to open their eyes and see their children returning from a far, a wonderful sight for any mother. “Lift up your eyes round about, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far, and your daughters shall be carried in the arms.”
God appears in a great theophany, manifesting his glory for all to see. “For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.” (60:2) Then we will see in ways we can’t see now. We who were living in darkness will see God’s brilliance and will see the world differently because of this light. Then all people will recognize God, “And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” (60:3)
Often in life we lose sight of our guiding light as the magi did. The Feast of Epiphany reminds us to be aware of that light in our life, in all the many little ways that God may show himself to us. It reminds us of the little epiphanies that are part of everyday life. Yes, there are times of big insights, great theophanies where God shows himself to be larger than life, but most of life is little epiphanies, seeing God in a sunrise or a baby’s laugh.
God is present in so many aspects of human life if we only open our eyes. The everyday is fraught with God’s presence, making the ordinary extraordinary. Hence my tag-line: Unlocking the Extraordinary from the Everyday. It is my mission to help people see God’s presence manifest in this world in all of the everyday events, in preparing meals, walking the dog or going to work.
And so we are just beginning to live the Epiphany. May every day be an epiphany!
Next week I will return to my study of the Psalms, though I may do one more reflection on Isaiah before leaving this study, reflecting on Is. 42:1-7 for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. A fitting way to round out this Advent/Christmas study of Isaiah.