In the Christian calendar, January 6 is the Feast of Epiphany. The day commemorates the story of the Eastern magi, or wise ones, who sought out Jesus to pay him kingly homage. The word epiphany means “to bring to light” or “to make manifest” and, in this case, refers to the revealing of Christ to the Gentiles.
While some churches associate Epiphany only with this Feast Day, many regard the whole period from January 6 until Ash Wednesday as the season of Epiphany. This approach invites an extended focus on how the adult Jesus manifested the mystery of his identity and the presence of his kingdom to others, from his Baptism at the beginning of public life to his Transfiguration near the end.
In my last post, Opening to the Light in Advent, I talked about our spiritual posture of longing for light during Advent so that we can more joyfully celebrate the Light during the twelve days of Christmas (ending on January 5). Now, during Epiphany, as we return to campus, we focus on manifesting the Light to others.
As poet Mary Oliver writes, "Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." First we are invited to look, then we are given to see, and then we are asked to say something!
Jesus: “Come and see…Go and tell”
Simply put, as leaders we want to help those we serve to see more of Jesus so that they can go on being formed and transformed by him. In the midst of all the demands and distractions they (and we) face, we invite their attention to Jesus as Creator incarnate, Wisdom enfleshed, Love personified. The more deeply we come to know and love the one who most deeply knows and loves us, the more our lives will be filled with light and life. So we come alongside our fellow disciples to listen and study scripture and pray and read books and worship and ponder questions and encourage and spur into action. So many ways to help each other to stay facing the Light!
And then we encourage each other to reflect the light. We want our lives to show the light—how we pursue our studies and do our work and befriend our neighbors and use our time and spend our money and deal with our failings and embody our values. And we want our words to convey the light. As spiritual shepherds, we invite others to join us in speaking to friends about the truth and beauty and power of Jesus. Let’s pray together for our friends to see Jesus. Let’s get practical training in how to guide our friends across the thresholds from distrust to curiosity to openness to seeking to faith. Let’s plan and lead creative, bold outreach strategies as a witnessing community on campus.
“I am the light of the world,” Jesus declared, and he also said to us: “You are the light of the world!”
Walking in the Light
Of course, for us to reflect the Light as leaders, we must keep walking in the Light ourselves. Epiphany reminds us of Jesus’s own transformative encounters. When he underwent Baptism in the river he saw heaven opened and heard the voice of affirmation (“my beloved”) and felt the presence of the Spirit (Luke 3:21-22). When he experienced Transfiguration on the mountain, he again glimpsed glory and received grace and experienced power (Luke 9:28-36). Both epiphanies were preludes to risk-filled mission. On both occasions, he placed himself deliberately before God, open, praying.
And so must we, if we want to see the light and gain the grace to brightly reflect it! May that be your experience this term.