Epiphany is a funny word. It is a funny concept, or at least that is what I thought as a child. Mainly because I would confuse the secular use of the word with the theological use. From the secular standpoint, an epiphany is a sudden realization — something we did not know before is now known to us. It is a striking moment in which we pause and evaluate what was once unknown or understood now being brought to light.
From this mindset, when I was a child I found it funny that the wise men, would have a sudden realization about Christ. They were on a journey to the Christ child, and what about that encounter gave them this life-altering ah-ha moment?
The Greek understanding of the word epiphany means a manifestation, a striking appearance. The wonder and awe the wise men felt brings a weight to the word for me. I imagine was a life-changing moment. One that caused those who encountered Christ to re-evaluate all they understood and knew to be true.
With this moment for the wise men, I find it strange that this liturgical season gets little celebration and can be overlooked. It falls in that post-Christmas season and before the rush of the church to make it to the season of Lent. It is just another Sunday on the calendar with a familiar story for us, but the mystery, the awe, the striking moment of Epiphany is lessened.
I’m not sure why. Maybe it is because we made it through Advent and Christmas rush. Maybe because we are in a new calendar year and looking to what lies ahead, we forget the moment of now. Whatever causes this, it does a disservice to the season of Epiphany.
There has been a newer way to mark the season of Epiphany with the use of star words. Words to guide you on your journey throughout the new year. Sometimes the words challenge us. Sometimes they remind us of what we might be missing in our faith journey. Sometimes they remind us of the parts of our lives that we need to work on.
The first time I got a star word, I laughed. I didn’t see how it would fit into my faith. Well, the joke was on me. That year, the word followed me everywhere and was the word that came to mind when I would have a new revelation about myself or God. The next year, I was cautious as I got my word. Unsure what to expect, but hopeful since the first year was one constant reminder of how God works in our lives and is present in many ways — even in those ways we least expected and in words that we think have no connection to us or our faith journey.
This way to mark the season of Epiphany and the new calendar year brings me joy. I sit anxiously waiting to see what word I will have for my year ahead and how God will work through that word and my experiences. I have a collection of past stars and memories that remind me of how God has worked in my life. It never fails that each new year and word teach me something new. Each year, I have an epiphany moment in which God reminds me that God can and does work in my life to expand and deepen my sense of understanding of who God is in the world.
I am not sure how long I will keep this star word experience in my life, but it is one way I have grown to appreciate the everyday way in which God breaks into our lives. It allows me to challenge and change my mind, grow in my faith and learn a little more about the expansive nature of God. To me, that is what the season of epiphany is about.
It is more than just the same old story we know of the wise men wandering to meet the Christ child. It is about how God worked then and God works now to teach us another facet of who God is. As we move between seasons of Advent and Lent, may we be mindful of this brief season of Epiphany and all the wonder and awe it holds.