On the evening of January 5, we gathered to celebrate our titular feast day. We gathered to celebrate The Epiphany that is recounted in scripture, and we gathered to celebrate the final scene that is almost always associated with the Christmas creche, although it likely was sometime after the birth of Christ that the magi appeared to see the Christ child. We gathered to celebrate the fact that these strangers from a far away land make a journey to Bethlehem to pay homage to the Christ, and we gathered to celebrate the ways that God continues to show up for God’s creation – even to the extent of taking on flesh and walking among us as one like the son of man. We celebrated a feast that combines two different actions – listening and showing up.
The start of the gospel lesson for Epiphany is through the art of listening. In the opening sentences, the magi come to Herod’s court to inquire about the child that has been born king of the Jews. They showed up because they were attentive to the signs that creation gifted to them. They saw the rising of the Christ child’s star, and they knew that they had to travel to this distant place in order to pay homage to this new king. The magi practiced the art of listening to the signs of creation as creation itself celebrated the birth of this new king, this Christ. The magi journeyed in order to show up, and they were able to show up because they first took the time to listen to what creation was telling them and inviting them into.
The word epiphany has an interesting etymology. In the common vernacular, we might think of an epiphany as “an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure.”1, 2 Yet, if we dig into the etymology of the word, we will discover that the meaning of epiphany from its roots includes the action of showing up. To show up is to respond to an invitation that is being made and is heard precisely because we have committed ourselves to the art of listening to those that are around us. It is an action that we can take because we have listened deeply enough that we can say yes to the invitations from our neighborhood, our city, our state, our country, and the whole of creation. We are able to practice showing up when we commit ourselves to the practice of intentional listening in our own context. We show up in the ways that we respond to the needs of our own community and in the ways that we, through these very same responses, kneel down to pay homage to the Christ. We open the treasure chests of our hearts when we follow God’s mission that is made known to us in the life of the Christ child. We give our own riches in the ways that we look out to our community to hear how we can take on the servant ministry of Christ.
Over the last year, we have been moving towards this very idea of epiphany by partnering with other community agencies and partners. Perhaps the one that should be mentioned is the renewed partnership that we have with Thew Elementary School. The past year has been a practice of listening to the needs of the school and then brainstorming how our parish can show up for the families, teachers, and staff of the school. We have provided breakfasts for teachers, thank you cards for teachers and staff, and on Epiphany, we celebrated the ways that we are helping the teachers and staff to resupply their classrooms. Our partnership with Thew has helped us to practice both listening and showing up for others.
The Feast of the Epiphany is a celebration of how God drew in the nations through the birth of the Christ child, and we celebrate the many ways that God continues to show up for God’s created order. We are the recipients of God’s invitation on our feast day, and we are invited to respond to that same invitation by continuing to live into the root meaning of the name of our parish. We are invited to go even deeper into our listening, and we are invited to continue practicing the art of showing up for our neighbors. Our feast day is a celebration of who we are, and it is a celebration of the invitation that God makes to the whole of cosmos. It is a feast in which God shows up for us and invites us to show up for others in the ministries of our parish. It is a night of journeying into the future that God has for our parish. Like the magi in the gospel narrative, we may discover that our listening leads us down another road because we took the time to listen to the Divine.