As far I as I concerned Christmas ends when the schools go back – and so we sadly took down our decorations and dumped the tree on Wednesday. But for the purists among you, Christmas ends today – Epiphany, when we mark the visit of the Magi to the recently-born Jesus.
Apparently Epiphany is big in the Eastern Church but not so with us.
It may be because like Ascension it does not usually fall on a Sunday or maybe after Christmas and New Year we are suffering from festival overload. Whatever, I guess few of you realize that it’s today.
Not so our eldest granddaughter. Today is her 4th birthday. Hence her name Rose Joy Epiphany. I wonder had she been born 12 nights earlier her name would have been Rose Joy Christmas!
Interesting word, Epiphany, for it has now entered everyday speech with a different context than simply the appearance or manifestation of Jesus to the Gentiles.
For what we used to call a eureka we now have an epiphany, a moment when it all falls into place, the penny drops, last piece of the jigsaw gives the whole picture, when you finally get it!
Bob Geldof for one: “Well, a sort of epiphany: I was in a great band. And it’s very cool to be at 53 and realise that when you were a kid you were in a great band.”
The whole point of having an epiphany is that you can’t make it happen. It comes up behind you unawares and takes you by surprise, usually when you are having a bath. You may well have been thinking long and hard about something but the change of context gives the vital break. It’s as if it comes to you from outside, even from God.
My evangelist friend Peter Partington believes in order to become a Christian, to make that key decision, you need to have heard the gospel at least six times. You need not just time but repetition, such is the radical shift required in our thinking.
One of the strange experiences of being a vicar (and there are many) is to have a member of your congregation come home from a Christian event to inform you that they have discovered a vital Christian truth – like Jesus died for me. You have to resist the temptation to say “What do you think I have been trying to communicate to you for the last so many years!”
The point is that they have had the information but it hasn’t been rearranged in their brain until they enter a different context. Then the penny drops – and an epiphany takes place, a Damascus moment changes their lives. A good reason to go to the “Iron Sharpens Iron” men’s conference on Saturday 21 January or New Wine 28 July-3 August – or whatever works for you. For it’s how God himself often works!
And also the day-by-day. For me one of the joys of regular Bible reading is when the Holy Spirit suddenly lights up a well-known passage. You see something you haven’t seen before and you wonder why – with it now becoming now glaringly obvious.
So it is good to pray before your Bible reading the Scripture Union prayer: “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.” (Psalm 119:18)
When an epiphany takes place, there is invariably a need to celebrate. The Eureka pub in Halsall Lane was extensively refurbished last year – it should have reopened as the Epiphany!