The Great Epiphany Challenge
Joining the Magi in seeing Christ among us
by Donna Frischknecht Jackson
It’s January 5, and I know I should take my Christmas tree down. The needles are falling at an alarming rate and each morning as I sip my coffee in the kitchen I can hear the clunk of yet another ornament sliding off a branch and hitting the living room floor.
Clunk. Yep, another one just fell.
I really, though, want to wait a bit longer. I want to keep the lights on the tree twinkling to remember the rest of the Christmas story — the moment when the Magi, after following the light of a bright star, found Jesus. This is an important part of the story that gets squeezed into the end of church pageants every December. The baby doll is placed in the manger and the little tots dressed as cuddly sheep look adoringly at the piece of plastic. Then the organist begins the first notes of the majestic song, “We Three Kings” and in come the children wearing crowns ready to present the iconic gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh.
I say this is a pivotal moment in the Christmas narrative not because of the valuable gifts being presented. It is pivotal because the Magi, outsiders from far-away lands, had an epiphany that changed them forever. An epiphany as defined by Webster’s dictionary as being “a moment in which you suddenly see or understand something in a new or very clear way.”
When the world around them was oblivious that God was now right smack in the world, the Magi saw Jesus for who he was. Jesus the Christ Child. Jesus the Savior. The Promised One. The One who would walk with us in the stresses, hiccups and problems of life. Jesus. The Word made flesh.
We Presbyterians haven’t done a great job observing this part of the Christmas story. A member of my rural congregation, who grew up in a Latino household, shared with me how confused she was as a child attending a Presbyterian church when the Wise Men were part of the nativity pageant.
“To me it was wrong. It was way too early. And I found it confusing that the church didn’t celebrate the Magi in early January. However, in my home there was a huge celebration with all the Christmas lights still lit. I just couldn’t understand it,” she said.
Yes, we in the church place all our energies on the Christmas Eve service that we forget about Epiphany. We don’t do anything on January 6 — the day marked on church calendars as the Feast of Epiphany — to celebrate what I dare say is perhaps the most important part of the story for us. The part in which we are being invited to suddenly see or understand something in a new or very clear way.
Are you tired of muddling through life? Are you finally done with worrying about tomorrow? Are you struggling with a problem? Groping in darkness for an answer?
If the answer is “yes” then join me in the Great Epiphany Challenge that I have invited my congregation to participate in. That is, from January 6 to February 14, which is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, let’s observe the light of Christ that is in our lives.
Let’s make Epiphany a season in which to observe the beauty of God being made known to us. Each day, join me in the challenge to give thanks for how God is walking with us.
Is there darkness? Seek the light, for the light is always there. Have a problem? Look hard for the blessing in it, for the blessing is always there. See the promise of Christmas unfold in the new year.
Part of the Great Epiphany Challenge is we need to share our epiphanies with one another. I invite you to go to the Presbyterians Today Facebook page and share your Epiphany moment. Or share a picture that captures a holy moment that made you stop and realize God is right in front of you. Share how it is you are seeing Emmanuel, God with us. If you are having trouble sharing on Facebook, email me your epiphany at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will post it.
Let’s not pack away Christ with the holiday decorations. For the Light is in the world and that Light is shining brightly.
Clunk. Yes, I heard it too. Another ornament just fell off of my Christmas tree — a tree that will stay lit for the Feast of the Epiphany.
Epiphany Suggestion: Light a Candle
If you already took down your Christmas lights, then set up one candle in a special place and each night in the season of Epiphany light the candle and give thanks for God’s light shining in the dark places of your life. Pray for God to open your eyes to see all the God possibilities before you.
Rev. Donna Frischknecht Jackson, interim editor of Presbyterians Today, is a former NYC magazine editor who traded in her heels for a good pair of barn boots when she was called to serve First United Presbyterian Church in rural Salem, New York. The little village sits on the Vermont border. She hopes to get chickens and goats one of these days. Till then, she writes, edits, preaches, tries to garden, quilts and shares the funny and moving moments that comes with being a rural pastor on her blog accidentalcountrypastor.com. Drop her a note at email@example.com.