by Linda Ryan
I like Epiphany. After Advent, it’s my very favorite season. Unlike Advent, though, or even Christmas, or Lent, it is a variable-length season consisting of four to nine Sundays between the date of Epiphany itself (January 6) and the beginning of Lent, which, this year, is March 30, ensuring a long Epiphany season. It celebrates the coming of the Magi to the Christ Child on the day and the manifestation of God in human flesh, the light lf Christ coming into the world throughout the season.
For me, a sad part of Epiphany is the darkening of the Christmas lights that made the December nights brighter and more hopeful. I admit to being a sucker for Christmas lights, even though I don’t put any on my own house. Luckily, I have a neighbor who throws herself into the season whole-heartedly and decorates enough for both of us. They have been taken down now and put away for the next eleven months, but here and there on my way to work are still the odd houses with lights glowing. Without those little points of light, life seems a bit bleaker.
I don’t have any studies to prove it, but my personal theory is that it is easier to be depressed in January than in just about any other month. People may argue for December because Christmas without all the trimmings (and the people) can be a lonely affair, but, at least in my eyes, the thought of a new year is like a stretch of Route 66 that was as straight as an arrow and went on for what seemed like half a million miles with absolutely nothing much in the way of scenery and the mountains that loomed in the distance never seeming to get any closer. It’s easy to get depressed in January; all the parties and whoop-de-doo of Christmas are over, tax season approacheth, it’s still winter and the turning of the calendar is a reminder that change is coming, whether we want it to or not. Babies will be born, elders (and often much beloved elders) will die, the economy and the state of the nation and the world will continue to wobble like an egg rolling downhill, and the heroes we raise today will be found tomorrow to have feet of very real clay.
But then there’s Epiphany, the season. It’s the spark of light that reminds us that just as everything has an ending, new things come along to engage us. Epiphanies are also sudden insights and flashes of Godlight that are like the V-8 commercial. They smack a person in the forehead. It’s looking at something seemingly ordinary and plain and suddenly having the lenses change and the thing appears in a whole new light, a whole different way, a 180° turn. It’s an idea that wasn’t there a second ago but suddenly rocks a personal world with its suddenness and (potential) brilliance. It’s seeing that homeless person hunched over a formerly abandoned grocery cart filled with bags and boxes that contain every single thing they own and suddenly seeing nail marks in their hands or a circlet of thorns instead of a watch cap on their heads. Things like that can happen all year but Epiphany is a reminder to be on the lookout for those new insights and changes of perspective.
The nights of the Epiphany season are still dark and cold but the nights are getting shorter, day by day, minute by minute. The green vestments and hangings of the church remind us that spring will be here — whether sooner or later, it will come. We have celebrated the manifestation of God among us, but we can also carry the spark of new fire, new light, new hope and new insights. All we have to do is look.