The Christmas season as most of us know it has drawn to a close. All the preparations and fanfare of Christmas fade into the calendar of another year. But the church calendar, an ever-present reminder of a different rhythm within the world around us, offers the countercultural suggestion that we take the Christmas story with us into the New Year. Six days into our new calendars, after trees have come down and lights are put away and the ambiance of Christmas has dimmed, Epiphany is celebrated. Hardly dim in significance, the feast of Epiphany commemorates the events that first revealed Christ’s identity to the world: the magi’s adoration of the Christ child, the manifestation of Christ at his baptism, the first miracle at the wedding in Cana, among others.
The arrival of the magi to the birthplace of Jesus was the first of many windows into the identity of the child born to Mary and Joseph. “After [the magi] had heard [Herod] the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route”(Matthew 2:9-12). As it had been foretold, nations came to his light and kings to the brightness of his dawn; they brought gold and frankincense and worshiped him.(1) A new mystery was revealed in Jesus, and the story continued to unfold before the world.
With those who first saw this light of God in an unlikely stable, with those who saw water turned to wine by a wedding guest, and with those who saw the heavens open up and the Spirit descend at a rabbi’s baptism, the Christian story on the feast of Epiphany is that we are a people with whom God is profoundly communicating. Like those who first journeyed to set their eyes on the Child, we are invited to see it all for ourselves. We are invited to participate in a story that takes us far beyond ourselves, even as it requires us to die to ourselves. But in so doing, Christ himself transforms our lives and our deaths, breathing something new where death stings and tears flow.
Jesus appeared on the scene of a people who had lived with God’s silence for 400 years. There had not been a word from God since the prophet Malachi. The heavens were silent; but God was getting ready to proclaim the best of all news. Into this wordless void, God not only spoke, but revealed the Word as flesh standing beside us, crying with us, and leading us home. Epiphany, like the Incarnation itself, reminds us that into ordinary days epiphany comes, so that even death itself cannot stop our uniting with the Christ who has been revealed. The Christ child appeared before the magi. The Son of God revealed himself in signs and wonders. The risen Christ stood among his startled disciples. And Christ the King will come again. There was a first Epiphany and there will be more to come. The good news of the Christian telling of Christmas is that Christmas indeed continues.
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
(1) cf. Isaiah 60:3, 6.