Epiph·a·ny: (1) : a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something (2) : an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking (3) : an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure
It’s one of the best words in our dictionary, isn’t it? It used to be limited to the vocabularies of philosophers, theologians, and poets, but these days I read it in popular books, and hear it in movies and on television. It is likely a word you have heard before, but perhaps you have not been sure of its meaning.
As a festival in the Christian church the Day of Epiphany marks the end of Christmas and the beginning of the season of Epiphany. The two scriptures associated with the Day of Epiphany, which always falls on January 6th, are the arrival of the wise men at the stable of Bethlehem (thus revealing Jesus as a savior to the Gentiles as well as Jews) and the baptism of Jesus (revealing Him as the son of God).
The reason this word is so powerful for us is that it describes what most of us are looking for: a new insight or revelation about the meaning or purpose of life. Some of us are like the Wise Men, and we have spent money and time and effort in searching for that which can enrich our understanding of life. Others are like those standing at the edge of the crowd when Jesus was baptized: we hope for the luck of being in the right place at the right time so that we might just catch a glimpse of some eternal Truth.
Either way we all know that we are dependent on moments of epiphany because we understand that what is most important in life cannot be learned from a book or a sermon or a lecture. Our most powerful moments come when God’s love is unveiled for us in a sunset, or the hug of child, or in the recognition that the breath just breathed is nothing less than a silent, but divine gift, from God. These epiphanies remind us of the divine mystery that stands behind our questions that cannot be answered, our fears that cannot be conquered, our vulnerability that cannot be overcome. They remind us that, even in the silence and the darkness, God is there.
May this New Year find you as the recipient of many such moments
Rev. Don Underwood