After Christmas, one of the harshest realities any child faces is accepting that the fanfare is ever so short-lived. Despite their protests that it stay, the season dims, fading into the coda of yet another calendar year. Carols are replaced, lights brought down, and the tree safely tucked away. Yet, fittingly, the Church’s liturgy then celebrates the Epiphany, as if allowing us yet a little longer to linger, behold, and cherish the Light that has come for our sake.
The English word ‘epiphany’ comes from a Greek word meaning ‘manifestation or appearance’ and indicates ‘the manifestation of God’ in Jesus, who is the Light and the Lord of all nations. In the Epiphany, we behold the Christ child, symbolized by light, whose Presence penetrates and illumines every area of human existence and by whom our journeys are changed, transformed, and given new meaning.
The Spotlight Of Power
As it had been foretold, nations came to His light and kings to the brightness of His dawn (Isaiah 60:3). Who were these men? They weren’t the religious leaders of the day or the pious clans of a chosen nation. God revealed Himself to foreigners who took on long and laborious distances to discover the depth of penetrating light. In following the great star of Bethlehem, they were ushered into a cave. Thus, was their ordinary time marked by the extraordinary.
God does not emerge at the forefront of power but descends into all that which is obscure, dark, and deep to reveal the intensity of His love. He comes for everyone—every nation, language, and people—and loves everyone.
We live in a world where we follow iconic figures and distinguished personages on whom the spotlight is continually turned. Drawn to their picture-perfect lives, we pursue their seductive lights of cultural supremacy and popularity. How often have we attempted to imitate their lifestyle, only to be kept from finding true meaning in life? How often have we tried to shine our own lights, only to debase or obscure our true needs? How many times have we confused God’s power, which is for serving others, with the self-seeking pursuit of personal power?
The world teaches us that we must strive to reach the top, where the spotlight shines. But God is not found in the spotlight. His light shines in humble love.
This is the reality of Epiphany: Christ is found in the most unlikely of places and is revealed to the most unlikely of people. He is found by those who seek no selfish gain, those most fragile and forgotten, and those who, by the world’s standards, do not qualify for the spotlight.
Arise & Shine
In Isaiah 60:1, the prophet addressed a challenging summons to everyone: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” ‘Arise’ and ‘shine’ are action words. In their dynamism, we hear the call to arise from our slumbering, stagnant lives to move onward in our journey of faith and shine as recipients of the light.
For the wise magi, to arise and shine after encountering Jesus means putting aside their ideals, perceptions, and intellect. It means accepting what they do not understand and setting forth to proclaim what they have seen. It means loosening their grip on worldly power and attachments and holding on to the indescribable gift of the ‘Savior’.
As Pope Francis points out, “They do not remain glued to their plans, but are prepared to take other routes.” These radically new paths are foreign and frightening, less popular and less logical by ordinary human reasoning. Yet in the encounter with the Christ child, their ideologies of the famed and fragile have been shattered. In adoring the docility of the Holy Family, they find themselves giving, not waiting to receive; worshipping, not wanting to be exalted. Thus do they exchange their former darkness for the light of the world.
Be The Light
As Christmas departs another year, in this season of the Epiphany, may we not lose sight of the manifestation of God before us. God lives even in our humble willingness to acknowledge our own blindness—our great need for sight. May we never forget that we are pilgrims on a journey homebound to heaven, and that here and now, we can encounter the King who came to us in luminous poverty at Bethlehem to bring us home. May we be willing to take risks on new journeys to discover God’s great plans. May we recognize in our travels our brothers and sisters who walk with us. Through the mystery of love, let us heal what rifts arise between us and our fellow sojourners.
Those who look to Him, Psalm 34:5 says, “Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed”. It is this light and joy within us that brings hope and healing to our fractured, divided, violent world. Yes, each of us can bring change to a situation, no matter how entrenched or impossible it seems. Each of us can arise and shine because Epiphany lives on.
- Where in your life do you need to encounter the Christ child?
- Where do you need to change paths or seek divine paths?
- Where do you need to rise and shine?
- To whom can you carry the light of Christ today?