As I write, Advent has yet to begin. Christmas has yet to take place and I am attempting to fast forward in my mind to the feast of the Epiphany. I am writing this piece in late November although it’s intended for the January edition of the Pic.
On reflection this has one advantage. The Epiphany can get short shrift as a tired postscript to Christmas. Yet it’s a magnificent stand-alone feast. It addresses the question: ‘For whom did Jesus come?’ Christmas is a feast for the family, the home crowd, for the followers of Jesus. At Christmas we invite him into our home, to our dinner table, our sofa and our TV screen. (Before central heating became the norm, we used to invite him to join us at the fireside. I miss that. Nothing beats contemplative-like staring into an open fire in the hour before bedtime).
The Epiphany tears us away from the cosiness of home. It requires us to crawl from under the duvet and return to work. ‘The Journey of the Magi’ by poet TS Eliot describes how one of the three wise men was changed by his encounter with the child Jesus: ‘We returned to our places, these Kingdoms, but no longer at ease here …’
The Epiphany celebrates the way our meeting with our new-born king changes the way we look at the routine of life in the real world, loath as we are to return to it. The Christ-child comes not just for us but for the rest of humanity. Epiphany celebrates the realisation that he really is a light to the nations.