Today, January 6th, is Epiphany. Epiphany is a Christian holiday that honors the manifestation of the divine nature of Jesus. The Three Kings play a key role in this, as it was their arrival that initiated this manifestation, this epiphany, to the gentiles. The Three Kings were not Jewish, but came from Persia and were said to be sages of the Zoroastrian religion. So on this day, Christians feast to celebrate this revelation of the Three Kings- that Jesus is the holy one.
In our Unitarian Universalist faith, we say (as inspired by James Luther Adams) that revelation is continuous. It is this belief that urges us to continue to seek all in which the holy resides.
At Christmas, we light up the darkness and let hope, peace, joy, and love shine through the mystery and wonder. We tell stories that help us connect to the Spirit of Life and Love.
And then it’s over. In years past, I’ve found the time after Christmas to be a bit of a downer. The decorations go away, and seemingly so does all the hope, peace, and joy with it. It’s back to school. And back to work. And people seem to be a little less jolly.
We may wonder, then, why we put so much effort into gathering up all that hope, peace, joy, and love. And indeed, it’s easy to be left dumbfounded after the holidays, full of sugar and cheese, contemplating the seemingly crazy ways in which we rushed around to make the holidays just right- creating more love and more joy. Christmas celebrates the birth of all of these things we find holy. But, without a purpose, a mission, a vision, or a new revelation- what do we do with it all? This is where Epiphany makes sense to me. If Epiphany is the manifestation of the holy, then it is a reminder to us, as Unitarian Universalists who continue to seek revelation over and over, that we need to manifest this holiness by putting our sacred values into action again and again.
On Christmas Eve, I explained to you why stories of magic, mystery, and wonder were not just silly childish stories. I explained them as presents, wrapped up in imaginative paper and a pretty bow with the bright flames of hope, love, joy, and peace burning inside. Through storytelling, the presents are unwrapped and the light revealed! But here’s what makes them different than the other presents under the tree- we can’t just neatly put a flame away. We can either put it out, or we can tend it, or we can spread its wonder to others. Maybe after Christmas, too many people just put the flame out and pack up its vessel for next year.
Epiphany, then, can become a reminder for us to tend the flame, to keep it going, to not pack up that which we put so much effort into celebrating. The Three Wise men tend the flame by offering it gifts. The gifts are fuel for the fire, the recognition that it is holy. As UU’s, we can offer each other the gifts of covenant- the promise that we will be here for each other as we search for truth and continuous revelation. This gift can surely keep our church community going strong.
“Myth,” said the Greek statesman Solon, “is not about something that never happened. It is about something that happens over and over again.”
In Unitarian Universalism, we recognize that all are holy, sacred, and a part of the divine interconnected universe, here to form the Beloved Community that will save the world. We recognize that each night that a child is born is a holy night (inspired by Sophia Lyon Fahs), and so it becomes necessary for us to understand epiphany as the manifestation of the holy in all of us, by all of us, again and again. Epiphany is our call to action just 12 days after we’ve celebrated the birth of the lights of hope, love, joy, and peace. Epiphany reminds us to find a purpose- it says yes, pack up the decorations and make room for the real work. Clear the space, set your intentions, and get moving!
It’s a New Year! What more can we create with this renewal of Spirit?