Have You Had Your Epiphany?
I was starting to write this yesterday, January 6, on Epiphany but was distracted by what was happening elsewhere.
Miriam Webster defines Epiphany as a church festival in commemoration of the coming of the magi. When the word is not capitalized, it can mean an intuitive grasp of the reality of something.
The first meaning is straight forward. The Christian Church has designated January 6 as the day we celebrate the coming of the magi. It is an arbitrary date, but since we don't know the actual date, then any date will do, and this works well enough, in my opinion.
The second meaning of an intuitive grasp at the reality or essential truth of something can be seen in the visit of those Persian astrologers a couple of thousand years ago. They grasped that a special event had taken place and set out to find out what was happening.
I think this has the fantastic fingerprints of God all over it. One simple reason is that God spoke to them in ways they would understand by sending the star. They knew nothing more than that, but our wonderful creator starts us with what we do know and then leads us to what we need to know. Simple but amazing, isn't it?
I wrote an article for The Presbyterian Record a few years ago. Sadly The Record has ceased publishing, as have many journals. I described how our church's piano tuner came back to faith in God after many years of indifference. God sent his boyhood piano across the continent to the shop where he was working restoring pianos. He thought he recognized it, and when he confirmed for sure that it was his childhood piano, the circumstances of its arrival in his life were like a tap on the shoulder saying, "Hi, it's me again." God used an event that he understood to stir up his dormant faith. My conclusion was that our creator uses the language we understand to gain our attention. That moment when God spoke through an old piano was David's epiphany.
There is a beautiful short story by O Henry called The Gift of the Magi. You may have read it, and if not, I recommend it and all of O Henry's short stories. In this story we meet a young married couple, very much in love but also very lacking in worldly wealth.
The story begins: "One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas."
In the story, Della, who has long, beautiful hair, has it cut off and sells it to buy a gold chain for her husband Jim's pocket watch. At the same time, Jim is selling his gold watch to buy tortoiseshell hair combs for Della's long beautiful hair.
It's a sentimental romantic story and not much in vogue these days, but the meaning is spot-on. Love does not look to satisfy itself but gives itself for the love of another. That's a true epiphany.
God speaks to us in the language we need, in order for us to understand. The astrologers who were led to Bethlehem and to Jesus responded to what their hearts and minds perceived: something new is happening. It's still happening. Something extraordinary is just over the horizon.