On Friday of this week (Jan. 6th), the season of Epiphany begins – exactly 12 days after Christmas day. The word Epiphany means “manifestation” or “showing forth” and it celebrates the visit of the magi to the baby Jesus. The magi, or wise men, were from the East – from a different culture and very likely a different religion. Therefore, Epiphany celebrates the “showing forth” of Christ to all people.
Those wise men that came looking for Jesus were outsiders. They had no commitment to the Jewish way of life – and yet Jesus came to them just as much as he came to save his own people. That is the whole point of Epiphany. Christ has been revealed to the entire world so that we might all show forth his life through our lives.
It seems appropriate to me that Epiphany should fall at the beginning of the New Year. The New Year offers us a new beginning, a chance to start over fresh and perhaps do a little better. Indeed, a lot of us make New Year’s resolutions – determined to make some change for the better in our lives.
A couple of years ago, about a minute after midnight on New Year’s Eve, my brother laid claim to the New Year as “his” year. My brother’s theory was that everything was going to go his way. Of course, he also has a theory that no one ever loses weight in our family – we just pass it from one member to another. So, during his year, he claimed the rest of us would get fat while he got skinny. If I remember correctly, it didn’t quite work out that way.
But no matter how things have turned out in the past, New Years is still a good time to resolve to begin moving in healthier directions in our lives. Therefore, it is also a good time to make a rededication to God.
The ancient Hebrews understood the importance of continual rededication to God. They, too, had a New Year’s celebration. But their celebration wasn’t just an excuse to eat, drink and watch football. For them, the beginning of a New Year was a deeply religious occasion. It symbolized the end of winter and the bounty of harvest as well as the promise of new life in the spring. At this festival, all of Israel, from the King to the poorest peasant, pledged their renewed commitment to God.
In this New Year we have a new opportunity to share in Christ’s vision for the world and for our lives. Of course, finding vision is not something that can be achieved as easily as saying, “this year is going to be the year things go well for me…”, but it’s a start.
Embrace Christ’s vision of God’s kingdom, with all its mystery and wonder, and enter into the New Year resolved to draw upon that vision every day.