I’m not a big fan of January. Ever since I was a child, January has been my least favorite month of the year. I’m not quite sure why. I guess it has something to do with the weather and the general let-down that comes after the Christmas holidays. My father always insisted on taking down the Christmas tree on New Year’s Day which I always found rather depressing. As an adult married couple, my wife and I much prefer to wait until January 6th or beyond to perform this least favorite task of the year.
Maybe my problem with January is also the frustration about New Year’s resolutions that go unfulfilled, although I have been sticking to my diet so far. It’s not that interesting and even enjoyable things don’t occur in January. Also, in January, the days start to become longer by one or two minutes each day which will be rather noticeable by the end of the month. Nonetheless, I know that when February 1st comes around, I will breathe a huge sigh of relief.
I used to feel the same way about Epiphany. I always thought it was just a way for the Church to fill in the time between Christmas and Lent. As I have matured in my faith journey, however, clearly a life-long pursuit, I have come to appreciate how subtle but powerful and rich this season of Epiphany really is especially with its images of manifestation and light. After all, it begins with the visitation of the Christ child by the Magi in Bethlehem and ends with Jesus being transfigured before his apostles on the mountaintop. That is some pretty significant stuff.
So here we are in the middle of January as faithful Episcopalians and followers of Jesus. We are weary of COVID-19, especially the omicron variant, and dreading a possible third year of the pandemic. We are tired of the partisan bickering in Washington and the political polarization throughout the country. We are experiencing significant inflation, economic uncertainty, and the effects of climate change. We worry about the future of our beloved Episcopal Church as the pandemic has only accelerated the decline in membership, attendance, and active participation. We feel overwhelmed with all this discouraging, if not, bad news.
Given all that’s going on, it is very easy for us to get stuck in the muck and to get totally immersed in the cloudy waters of life – looking down into the mud rather than up toward the light. Our natural human tendency, especially during challenging times like these, is to wallow in our misery, focus on the negative, and even lose all sense of optimism and hope – especially in the middle of winter.
Yet, there is good news during this season of Epiphany that should comfort us, inspire us, challenge us, and help us respond to God’s call to be God’s agents of love and reconciliation in a fragile and broken world. Let’s view the beginning of a new year as a call to action to reject our old ways, follow the star, and look to the light. Let’s turn away from any feelings of doubt, fear and hopelessness and, instead, turn to Jesus – our source of strength, courage and love. We must constantly renew within us a sense of joy, wonder and hope and be open to, and even embrace change – changing ourselves and ultimately, our communities and even the world. One of the hidden benefits of this pandemic is that it has given all of us an opportunity to see things differently and to do things differently. We have come to realize that we will never go back to normal because the very idea of normalcy is completely different. Let’s use this time – the new normal -- to be more loving, more giving, and more fully alive.
Wishing you and your loved ones a happy, healthy, and safe 2022.