Sunday, January 06, 2008

Feast of the Epiphany

e·piph·a·ny –noun [(i-pif-uh-nee)]

1. A Christian festival, observed on January 6, commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi; Twelfth-day.

2. An appearance or manifestation, esp. of a deity.

3. A sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.

Oddly enough has no entries for the word epiphany. The dictionary has six, all about the same as what's written above.

Today is the feast day of "when the wise men showed up" as one of my kids used to say. Yes they did. Or no, they didn't, depending on how literally you take the Bible.

It really doesn't matter to me whether they did or didn't, whether they got there the day/night Jesus was born or after he'd been around for a while. It's a parable... a story that speaks to something else.

Our celebrant this morning spoke to the third definition (in light of the first) for her sermon theme. She gave examples from poetry and literature to develop the idea of what you do once you've had an epiphany... how you live from then on. She asked: How do you reorient your life around the new reality the light reveals? Excellent question. And, she believed, it accounts for some of the let-down people experience after the holidays. Because if we follow the new insight, it will mean extra work for sure, and possibly extra danger. The wise men discerned the danger and fled, never to be heard from again. Their decision left a larger wake of violence, for Herod, already losing his marbles, responded by slaughtering the innocent.

Years ago I was involved in some personal growth seminars. There were several epiphanies for me as a result of those trainings. I remember being told: Once you begin on the path of awareness, there is no turning back. "Catchy phrase" I thought at the time. Yet I found out it was absolutely true. You can live in denial, you can backslide, you can curse the day you ever encountered the light, but there's no turning back.

In Auden's poem the wise men say, "O here and now our endless journey stops." The shepherds say, "O here and now our endless journey starts."
May we be like those shepherds.

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