Today is the Feast of the Epiphany. Epiphany is about light. It is about the news of Jesus, the Christ, shining beyond the boundaries of a tiny town in a tiny country. Many theologians think Epiphany is the most important time of the church year and deserves more than one day of attention. I agree for both theological and personal reasons.
The theological reasons are expressed in the three stories we tell on this day: The magi arrive at the manger with gifts. Jesus turns water into wine at the wedding at Cana. John baptizes Jesus in the River Jordan. These stories are neon signs of the specialness of Jesus. Jesus is a king; he performs miracles; and a voice from the heavens says, “This is my Son, the Beloved with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3: 17 NRSV) This news will spread like wildfire. Epiphany is the the flashpoint, the manifestation of God with us, sending up flame and light for the world to see. This is more than a one-day event.
For me, Epiphany is a continuation of the Advent theme of “light in darkness.” It is a reminder of my call as a Christian to spread that light and to wear that light. So instead of packing up the Christmas lights and relegating them to the attic, I keep them up. Not quite until Spring, but until Lent. In the dark days of winter I need the visual cues of light to reinforce the Good News. The candles stay in the windows and the Christmas tree (morphed into an Epiphany bush) dresses up in white lights and stars.
When I was a child, we called January 6 “Little Christmas.” Some families I knew gave gifts on that day. I like the idea of giving little gifts of light–a small flashlight, matches, a night light, or a glow-in-the dark rosary–like the one that hangs on the lampshade right next to my bed and shines in the dark every night when I turn out the light.