I love Epiphany. At our home, we celebrate Epiphany on January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany in liturgical traditions. We turn off every light and recite the words from John 1, “What has come into being in him was life and the life was the light of all people.” Then we light a candle and go room to room, inviting the light of Christ to fill every space. We chalk our door with a blessing, sprinkle holy water everywhere, and sing “Joy to the World” as enthusiastically as the four of us can manage.
It really is great fun. In many liturgical traditions, Epiphany is a season starting on January 6 and continuing until Ash Wednesday, when the 40 days of Lent begin. Epiphany is where “O Come Let Us Adore Him” becomes “Go Tell It on the Mountain.”
In Advent, we spin inward in an effort to make room for Jesus’ coming. At Christmas, we celebrate the beautiful and scandalous birth of Jesus. And in Epiphany we’re sent out with the light of the beauty of the glory of Jesus shining in our faces to announce the good news. The darkness is past. A new day has come. The light has shined in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
Light is the preeminent symbol of Epiphany. There’s an irony here. We speak of and celebrate light as a church in the heart of the season when our hemisphere seems wrapped in darkness. We know people who sit in front of full spectrum lights this time of year to help regulate their body to the diminished light. Many of us are up before dawn and return home after dusk.
Moving from the physical universe to the symbolic, the irony deepens. Our society is fragmented and fragmenting at an alarming rate. People are crying out for work, for justice, for security, for hope. The darkness is thick indeed. I think of the words of Hosea 4: “There is no faithfulness or loyalty, and no knowledge of God in the land. Swearing, lying, and murder, and stealing and adultery break out; bloodshed follows bloodshed. Therefore, the land mourns, and all who live in it languish; together with the wild animals and the birds of the air, even the fish of the sea are perishing.”
Epiphany isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s not for idealists who believe that things are basically good and getting better, but then collapse in cynicism when confronted with darkness. Epiphany beckons us to come to the light of Jesus Christ. Epiphany calls us to stare into that light until our inner darkness is fully expunged. Epiphany then sends us out into a dark and weary world as women and men with shining faces, until we say with the apostle Paul, “It is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
John 3:19 says, “Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” Holding up a candle risks exposure, a confrontation with the powers that thrive in the dark.
God’s call to us in Epiphany is to hold up a candle. We’re being invited to make that move from coming and adoring to going and telling
We’re healthiest as the people of God when we stare into the light of Jesus until our hearts burn within us and then we go out into the places we live, work, and play with faces that radiate this light. To quote Paul, “And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Radiating the Light of Christ Personally
How are you radiating the light of Christ in your life? What practices warm your heart to the reality of Jesus’ presence with you? Are you setting aside time every day to sit in the presence of Jesus without any plans other than to know his love for you?
The best way I know to sit in the presence of God is to do what Christians have done throughout the centuries, the simple practice of holy reading, working your way through a section of Scripture slowly, attentively, asking simply, “How does this passage of Scripture point me to Jesus?”
Radiating the Light of Christ Relationally
It has always been the norm for Christian witness to take place in community. Our faces shine with the light of Christ together. We reflect the beauty and glory of Jesus best when we are connected to others in community.
How is that going for you? Are you a part of a community--a house church, a ministry team, a wellness circle? Is there space at your table for someone from a different generation, marital status, or educational background?
I’m convinced there’s nothing that better reflects the glory, beauty, and majesty of Jesus than when we, the Church, live and work in unity and community. When we’re looking into the face of Jesus together with others, it becomes natural to invite the people we live with, work with, and play with to experience that life as well.
This week, seek to live in the light of Christ.
Jason Gaboury serves with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and is an Anglican friar.
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