Sunday, January 05, 2014


It is about the time that life after the Christmas holidays is supposed to get back to normal. The rigours of the Christmas season- the festivities, the gift-giving and gift-receiving, the travel, the visits- are more or less over and the prospect of a return to work and normal life looks almost welcoming. Tonight, it is Epiphany- a brand new season and, if I might say it, a much less culturally resonant one. In fact, compared to the season before it, Epiphany almost fades into the background as we hunker down and look out over the mid-winter snow and begin to hunker down for the long, dark winter. Epiphany, as we often experience, almost seems to represent an ending, rather than a beginning- at least, as it is often experienced in North America.

Now, that experience is funny when you compare it to what the season is actually about. Epiphany is all about the breaking out of the divine into human life; the moments where God bursts into mundane human life and nothing is ever quite the same. So, we see the coming of the Magi to the carpenter's son, Jesus, and the startling pronouncement of Jesus' kingship by the Gentiles. The divine fingerprints are all over this story. The Magi are guided by strange, divinely-produced astral phenomena and are supernaturally warned not to trust Herod. Joseph and Mary are supernaturally warned to flee to Egypt to avoid Herod's fearful wrath and just as supernaturally permitted to return safely years later. It is a strange story and it is one that clearly changes the scene so profoundly that nothing is ever quite the same. God breaks through the humble beginning of Jesus to make sure that Jesus' real, divine status becomes more clear.

All this got me to thinking about those other smaller epiphanies which still break into my life- much less dramatic, but not less disconcerting. Of course, I'm not exactly the kind of person who sees divine manifestations every day over breakfast. No angel has ever jumped out at me and told me to go to a foreign land, even when I first decided to come to Toronto to study. Yet, there are moments in my life where God's fingerprints become visible in unexpected ways and nothing really remains the same after that. Maybe it is as simple as reading Martin Buber's I and Thou for a Philosophy of Religion course and realizing that, for the first time in a long time, I wasn't feeling anxious. Or, perhaps admitting my desire to attend a church service and sense of unworthiness about doing so to a patient friend, who invited me to her church anyway. Or, at the installation of a college president, being commissioned with the other students to live out our vocation in the world and realizing, weeks later, that that was a rather different proposition than I expected.  Or any number of other epiphanies which twisted my life in ways that I really couldn't anticipate. That only goes to show that I'm about the last person to know what is good for me. And that isn't necessarily a bad thing to know about myself.

Yet, I wonder sometimes, because of this, if we don't give Epiphany its due. It seems so much an ending to the Christmas season season that I don't think we appreciate what the Epiphany seasons is supposed to teach us. Epiphany really represents a beginning, a new chance for God to show Himself in his wild and wonderful ways. I wonder if we can't look for those divine fingerprints around us and quietly give thanks for our unpredictable and spontaneous God. May your epiphanies, little and great, shine forth and illuminate the path before you.


1 comment:

Monica said...

Beautiful and encouraging! Thank you so much, Phil!