It is always a new beginning with the Lord

Aligin with the elements of nature

Today, January 4 is the Second Sunday after Christmas and on Tuesday, January 6 is the Epiphany. From very early on, Epiphany has been one of the cycles of the church calendar, along with Easter and Pentecost. Although we have different lectionary readings for the Second Sunday after Christmas and for the Epiphany, many churches observe Epiphany on this Sunday.

In Greek, epiphany essentially means “manifestation”, or, in everyday language, a moment when suddenly one sees or understands something. In its ecclesiastic usage, Epiphany is the manifestation of God in Jesus. Western Christianity sees the beginning of this manifestation in the visit of the magi to the infant Jesus. Thus, one of the alternative Gospel readings for this Sunday is Matthew 2:1‑12 which is an account of the magi, their conference with Herod the Great, and their offering of gifts to the child in the manger.

For Eastern Christianity, epiphany is more commonly called Theophany, which literally translates to “vision of God”, not at all different from the manifestation of God. Nevertheless, Eastern Christianity associates this vision of God, not with the visit of the magi but with Jesus’ baptism when a voice from heaven declared him to be “God’s beloved son”. And while in the West, Epiphany is thus observed on January 6, in the East (because they follow the Julian calendar) Theophany is observed two weeks later.

On this Sunday, therefore, and the next eight Sundays, our meditation will center on the epiphany, or the theophany. – the manifestation of God in Jesus Christ.

In the First Reading from Jeremiah 31:7-14 the Lord declares, “He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd a flock. For the Lord has ransomed Jacob, and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him”. It is the dawn on things new; no longer the gloom and sorrow of bondage, but redemption and freedom.

We can also see the same picture in the First Reading for the Epiphany (Isaiah 60:1-6): “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you, and the Lord’s glory will appear over you”.

Our world is very dark today when citizens cannot trust those in law enforcement and elected officials are seen as pursuing their personal goals rather than the common good. Many are in bondage especially because of systems. But the message today is that all the setbacks notwithstanding, the Lord shines far beyond. The Lord is not hidden even in the midst of darkness, hardship and injustice.

The Lord was revealed to the magi while they were going about their business. They were not even from the “chosen people” of God and they were led to the manifestation of the Lord by stars. Clouds, rain or snow could have served just as well – the manger and animals, God’s glory can be seen everywhere and anywhere.

This is consolation to everyone. We should not be afraid of the darkness because the Light is here now. The question and challenge is: Are we finding God in our every moment of life and in every situation? Are focused on the darkness and fail to see the Light?

When we are fixed on the Light, as Isaiah 60:5 promises, “Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice”.