“This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17)
As we contemplate a new year and a new decade, putting away the decorations, finding space in the freezer for all those leftovers, we are not yet done with Christmas. In the Church calendar, the Christmas season runs through till Candlemas in February. And because Christmas is not just about over-spending and over-indulging, January offers us a chance to think more deeply about the significance of Christ’s birth. On Epiphany Sunday, a day set aside to commemorate God revealed through the person of Jesus Christ, we read of the Magi, wise men from the East, who have followed a star to find Jesus. On seeing him, “they bowed down and worshipped him”. It is a light-bulb moment, not just for the wise men who immediately recognised his importance, but also for the world, for all time. They bring gold, frankincense, and myrrh, acknowledging this child as a divine rather than worldly King. There is symbolism and prophecy in those gifts: gold is for a King, frankincense a burnt offering to God, and myrrh is used both for royal anointing and for embalming – Christ’s divine fate is revealed in the choice of gifts.
Fast forward 30 years in just a week to the following Sunday, which celebrates Christ’s baptism. This is yet another epiphany, a moment of revelation. It comes by way of an endorsement, as it were, of the Magi’s insight, their awareness of the child’s relevance. For it is at Christ’s baptism, by John in the river Jordan, that he is acknowledged by God his Father, who sends the Holy Spirit, “descending like a dove and alighting on him”. This man is indeed the Son of God.
So January may still feel dark and gloomy, but the light shed on our world by Christ’s arrival has not dimmed. It is a time of year to reflect on opportunities missed, paths not taken, misunderstandings and misdemeanours. In doing so, we may experience our own epiphanies, those light-bulb moments that help us to become more aware, more understanding, more alert. Like those wise men of old, who “having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, returned to their country by another route”, may we choose the routes we follow through the coming year in the light of greater understanding.
Above all, let’s not put Christ away with the decorations or in the freezer until next Christmas, but take him with us on our journey through 2020.
Happy epiphanies to you all! Yvonne Allen