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 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. I am even intrigued by those cultures and traditions that keep the tree up until February 2, Candlemas Day but imagine the pine needles that would have to be cleaned up. 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. During Epiphany, we also hear the foundational stories of Jesus’ early ministry - his baptism in the Jordan River by John, his first miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana, and his return to Galilee to preach and teach in the local synagogues.
As with any liturgical season, the challenge is to incorporate the images and themes of Epiphany into our daily lives as followers of Jesus, Episcopalians or lay and clergy leaders in our congregations or faith communities. Let me offer a few suggestions on how to do this:
- Don’t wait for Lent, try to enhance your own personal spirituality right now. Pray parts of the daily office, read a passage of scripture, or spend a few minutes each day in silence – meditating, breathing deeply or just being in the moment.
- Spread the light – smile at strangers and store clerks, practice random acts of kindness, shovel the sidewalk of a neighbor, contribute to a local foodbank or homeless shelter, reach out to an old friend.
- Resist the urge to hibernate – turn off the television, read a good book, take a walk, support your local café or restaurant.
- Connect with your congregation – organize potlucks and other fellowship opportunities to get people out of the house, call fellow parishioners to thank them for their pledge or to just say hello, make your annual meeting fun, engaging and life-giving.
- Cherish and appreciate each day, even the coldest days of winter, and remember that spring is just around the corner.
These are a just a few ideas to think about to help make the next several weeks warmer and brighter. I’m sure you can come up with even more. Maybe January doesn’t need to be that bad after all. Wishing you a joyful and light-filled Epiphany season.