Yesterday we took the Christmas wreath down from our front door. It was Epiphany – the feast in the Christian calendar when, according to tradition, the wise men arrived to bring their gifts to the infant Jesus. We spent Christmas in the home of our son and daughter-in-law. They had a nativity scene - attractively-carved wooden figures in one corner of the living room – Mary, Joseph, the Christ-child, shepherds, a sheep, an angel, all framed in a stable. There were wise men…but on the other side of the room. They were only to be united with the rest of the scene yesterday.
The history of the feast and traditions of Epiphany is complex. Basically, it celebrates the appearance of God among us in Jesus and his recognition and welcome by those from outside his own Jewish tradition. It was an epiphany - time for a new sense of connection – a life-changing experience. But the epiphany itself was only a glimpse. The wise men caught a glimpse of God after a long trek. Their moment with Jesus was followed by a return journey with only the memory of their encounter to warm them. It was, it had to be, enough.
God does come to us sometimes with sharp clarity and there are those to whom He seems to come on a regular basis. But it is not always like that for most people. There are glimpses, echoes, hints – elusive but real. They come sometimes in our relationships, sometimes in the natural world, often in the most unlikely circumstances. The moments are often fleeting. But the Presence is unmistakable. The changes to our lives and thinking can be profound.
Our Christmas decorations have returned to the loft. Until they re-appear next year. But we wish for ourselves and for you small, unexpected epiphanies any day in 2018 – Happy New Year!