The Epiphany of the Lord
Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6
Decorating the Christmas tree this holiday season got me thinking. Have you ever reflected on the items we place on the top of our Christmas trees, as compared to the items we place beneath our trees? Many people put a star or an Angel at the top of their tree. Underneath, people put presents, a Nativity set, a train set, or perhaps a small village. We tend to put the things of heaven at the top of trees and the things of earth underneath them. It is almost as though the Christmas tree has this ability to connect us again. Symbolically, the tree unites the heavens and the earth. And the space in between we fill with ornaments, decorations and lights. These are all things which lift us beyond the hum-drums of daily routine. Many times the ornaments themselves are symbolic of family experiences.
Fascinating, for so many people these few days of Christmas actually change us. We change our schedules, our priorities, and we let go of productivities. We literally move into a different frame of time and in doing so the magic of reconnecting happens. We take time to connect and reconnect with family and friends. And suddenly, right there in our midst is the prince of peace. It’s delightful and miraculous how we actually live for a few days out of the truth of this connection. We afford ourselves time to tell sacred stories and to listen to how the one from heaven comes to us. And for a brief time, we find ourselves at one with God.
I love GK Chesterton’s quote that logicians are seeking to get the heavens into their head, while the poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is so applicable to today’s feast, the Feast of the Epiphany. We retell the story today of the Magi, who were bold enough to look beyond the things merely at the bottom of the tree. As they gazed into the heavens, they could truly behold new light. It dawns on me that this is precisely the symbolic statement of the Christmas tree. With the brightest star at the top of the tree, we would never be able to outshine that star. We are called to shine forth in the splendor and beauty of that star. For not only have we been made in the image and likeness of that light, as Isaiah reminds us, "the glory of the Lord shines upon you. Upon you the Lord shines and over you appears divine glory." We all know that it is not one light that makes the tree beautiful, it’s the combination of thousands of lights all glowing.
In the Eastern churches this is the all important day. This is a much greater day than December 25th. Just because a child was born to us and a son given to us, does not necessitate that humanity respond to this truth. Today’s the day that we see the light of Christ and we consciously respond to it. May the light of incarnate truth shine brightly in you.
Fr. David Colhour, C.P. is the pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Louisville, Kentucky.