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Epiphany has become incredibly meaningful for me in the last two years and perhaps more meaningful than Christmas. While that might be somewhat provocative to say in 2015 our faith ancestors (and our current day Orthodox family of faith) understand what I mean. Christians have been celebrating Epiphany longer than we have Christmas. This used to be our big day that was marked with the exchange of presents, not Christmas.
At West End Collegiate Church, where I minister, there are four services that are the “big services.” Christmas and Easter, like most churches, are filled with new faces and jovial celebration. The Blessing of the Animals Service is another service where the sanctuary is filled with animals and their caretakers as we welcome all of God’s creatures. In the last couple years it is our Epiphany service, also known as the Service of Light, that has grown to be one of our four biggest services. It’s an elaborate service with an enchanting liturgy that is mostly lay lead. Candles pepper the sanctuary as we stand in a circle and hold our light up and remind ourselves that God’s light now dwells within us. It’s moving, hopeful, participatory, and theologically rich.
I dig Epiphany. It’s a sensual day. Think of the awakening of the senses of the frankincense and myrrh; the royal allure of gold. I love that! These things tickle my imagination.
Epiphany is a day of wonder. I would like to see the church wonder more. Epiphany could help us. I think we overlook the amazing interfaith experience of the magi visiting Jesus. Our roots begin with interfaith respect and wonder.
I also love how the magi trusted the natural world (a star!) to find the truth of what they were set on finding. The magi are people who trusted their experience and intuitive hunch that God was up to something in this world and so they left their home in pursuit of truth and wonder. I love the magi. In many ways they are my role models who I’ll be hanging out with over the next few days during this Epiphanytide.
True to my own spirituality I lean on art to help open up the corridors of my connection with Jesus Christ. So let me leave you with a couple of things that I’m sitting with in the hopes that they might nourish you in some way this season. The first is a painting by my favorite Biblical artist He-Qi. The second painting is a contemporary rendition of the magi visiting Jesus by the artist James Janknegt. I have also included a poem by Jan Richardson about the wise women who sought Jesus. I also offer you a prayer I wrote for my congregation that you can find here.
May we be courageous like the magi and may we walk in the way of wisdom that takes us to places beyond certainty and into faith. Happy Epiphany, friends.
Wise women also came.
The fire burned in their wombs long before they saw the flaming star in the sky.
They walked in shadows, trusting the path would open under the light of the moon.
Wise women also came, seeking no directions, no permission from any king.
They came by their own authority, their own desire, their own longing.
They came in quiet, spreading no rumours, sparking no fears to lead to innocents’ slaughter,
to their sister Rachel’s inconsolable lamentations.
Wise women also came, and they brought useful gifts:
water for labour’s washing, fire for warm illumination, a blanket for swaddling.
Wise women also came, at least three of them,
holdingMary in the labour,
crying out with her in the birth pangs,
breathing ancient blessings into her ear.
Wise women also came, and they went, as wise women always do, home a different way.