January 6th marks the beginning of Epiphany, a period of several weeks in the Christian liturgical year between Christmas and Lent. The word “epiphany” comes from a Greek word which means “appearance,” or “to show forth, manifest.” As the well- known story goes, three Kings from distant lands followed a bright star to the lowly birthplace of the Saviour. His coming was foretold by prophets and anticipated by scholars, but it was the Wise Men who read the signs and journeyed far to witness the Holy amongst us. The “epiphany” in the story is not only the Magi recognizing the humble birth as the coming of the Messiah, but also their appearance before it. In other words, they showed up.
I think of those who missed it, such as the innkeeper in the Nativity story who didn’t have room, and Old Befana, the character from Italian folklore who was too busy sweeping her house to accompany the three travelers on their way to see the Holy Child. This sounds all too familiar. Is my life so filled with busy-ness that I shut the door on the Holy, or say that I don’t have time to look for it? How often do I let my days go by without a sense of the miraculous or the sacred? How often do I keep myself out of the light? I would do well to think beyond the familiarity of the Three Kings’ story, to imagine the curiosity and courage that took these three seekers across many lands and the trust they placed in that star–their guidance. Perhaps a baby in a stable wasn’t the sort of King they’d expected, but their hearts and minds were open to the truth of what they discovered.
This season of Epiphany calls us to be Wise Men and Women, to search out the Holy and appear before it with praise and gratitude. The story tells us it requires a long journey, a journey that will, in the end, bring us face to face with the truth. And when we get there, we will see how the light we sought was like that star, the very light that was with us the whole time and even showed us the way.