Rev. Sam Gutierrez
I love dimmer switches. I was happy when the house we moved into this past summer already had dimmer switches installed in almost every room. Often, turning the light on “full bright” is a little too glaring, so I find a spot just below that adds a little more ambiance to the room – it’s easier on the eyes and creates a more relaxed vibe.
The season of Epiphany is like a dimmer switch. During this liturgical season, through various biblical stories, the light is slowing brightening and we begin to see more clearly that the vulnerable baby born in a manger is the glorified king of heaven and earth.
The season of Epiphany begins with the feast of Epiphany on January 6 and ends the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Depending on where Easter falls (it’s a moving holiday) the season of Epiphany can be as short as 4 weeks and as long as 9 weeks. The word Epiphany means “to appear” or “to bring to light” (hence dimmer switch) – it’s a season of increasing light and ends with the lights on maximum: Transfiguration Sunday. On the mountain top, Jesus’ glory is revealed and we catch a glimpse of his divine nature – a vision that’s a little too bright for human eyes.
The beginning of Epiphany is framed by three key stories from the life of Jesus. The first is the visit of the Magi from the East. This story tells us that Jesus came for all people (not just the Jews) and the good news stretches East and West, North and South – redemptive news for the whole world. The second framing story is the Baptism of Jesus. In this narrative, the dimmer switch gets turned up a few notches – we learn more about the true identity of Jesus - the beloved Son in whom the Father is well pleased. The third framing story is the first miracle of Jesus when he changed water to wine at a wedding feast in Cana. The water basins that were used for ritual cleansing were changed into lavish amounts of wine. Wine symbolizes the intoxicating love, generosity and grace that Jesus came to initiate and demonstrate.
Epiphany is a rich, but unfamiliar and overlooked season. January is considered a cold and dark month – the merriment of the Christmas season is over, the new year has begun and we’re back at work or in school. Culturally, these weeks are marked by a return to routine.
But liturgically, Epiphany is a season of quiet hope with a watchful eye towards God’s promise to bring wholeness to the entire galaxy in the person of Jesus. It’s also a time of spreading this good news and so we look for little ways to spread hope to those around us. We pray for our friends, neighbors, relatives, children, family members and spouses who don’t know Jesus yet. We believe that “in him was life and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” – John 1: 4-5
Taking it another step: