Christmas and Epiphany

Christmas and Epiphany
 

Christmas and Epiphanyare two seasons of the Christian year linked by visits to the Christ–Child.

Christmas begins at Midnight on Christmas Day (or morning!) as we celebrate the birth, in time, of the Word of God made flesh .

Epiphany (the word means “shining out” or “revelation”) celebrates the self revelation of God’s love and truth in Jesus through the coming of the Magi and their gifts, through Christ’s Circumcision and Baptism, through the Sign of Water become Wine at Cana and through the presentation of the Christ child at Candlemas where old Simeon and ancient Anna rejoice that they have seen “a light to lighten the Gentiles”.

We do not celebrate these Feasts in strict chronological order—the Christian Year is not  merely a re-telling of an ancient story but rather enables us to enter ever more fully into the Mystery of the Love of God revealed through Christ.

Christmas and Epiphany focus on  the adoration of two very different groups of people: the shepherds and the magi. Together they represent all people—young and old, rich and poor, and all the many nations of the earth. They worship the Christ-child on Mary’s knee – for it is thanks to the obedient “Yes” of a young woman that this story happens in this place. As we all come to Christ in Bethlehem where “the hopes and fears of all the years” are gathered, for the wisdom of the centuries tells us that here in Christ, may we find a Story and a Way that offers us purpose, hope, promise, and healing.

Human hopes and fears remain much the same down the years. The  shepherds  know war, cruelty, oppression, poverty, hunger, death. They know lust ,greed, hatred cruelty, selfishness.  They know how short and wretched our lives can seem. The shepherds know  our daily anxieties:  can we keep our jobs?, will the money will stretch far enough?, how do we cope with the joint demands of family and work? They come to the Christ child for in Him is Good News that God is, and God is Love.

The poet W. H .Auden in “For the Time Being” portrays the Three Magi as following  Christ’s star in a faith that is no certainty but rather a deeply questioning trust and hope:

“At least we know for certain that we are three old sinners,
That this journey is much too long, that we want our dinners,
And miss our wives, our books, our dogs,
But have only the vaguest idea why we are what we are.
To discover how to be human now
Is the reason we follow this star.”

We come to Christ, in part, to find out what we are meant to be about – to begin to grasp  the point and purpose of human existence, to enter into the deep mystery of Christ through prayer and worship.  As we offer ourselves to Christ so Christ offers himself to us in love.

In Christ God, who holds all in being, empties himself  to become one with us. God summons forth our love and trust  by entrusting himself to us and asking for our help. In the Christ-child kings and shepherds discover God’s love, humility, and concern for  each one of  us. As, with shepherds and kings,  we kneel before the Christ-child we find our little offerings accepted and taken into the glorious eternity of God – and we are given food for our  journey : the bread of life


An Ever Circling Year
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