Thursday, January 18, 2024

A New Hope for A New Year

by The Rev. Connie Yost

 I am a bit late coming to this New Year 2024 blog post, but my thoughts about it have been welling up as we enter this election year.  I admit I approach 2024 with fear – fear that the onslaught of election news will wear me down, and a greater fear that a candidate will win the Presidential election who will further degrade not only our democracy but humanity itself.  I long for God in all of this, for those people who can lift up and further the attributes of my God – kindness, strength, hospitality, equality, creativity, beauty, truth, love.

Of all the religious holidays we celebrate, I have come to resonate most deeply with Epiphany. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Epiphany as “January 6 observed as a church festival in commemoration of the coming of the Magi as the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles or in the Eastern Church in commemoration of the baptism of Christ.”  For Western Christians, this is the day that three wise men or Magi, guided by a star, discovered the baby Jesus, born in a barn to poor people who soon became refugees to protect Jesus from the murderous King Herod.

January 6 – Epiphany – is the day Christians celebrate the light in the darkness.  How very terrible that it is now inextricably bound up with the day a mob descended on the US Capitol with murderous intent to stop the certification of electoral college votes in the 2020 Presidential election.

And yet, because the vile act of January 6, 2021 happened on Epiphany, I find it even more important to remember the message of Epiphany.  The Magi were not Jews, they were Gentiles, and yet they traveled far to find a new revelation of God in the Jewish baby Jesus.  They bridged divides and hardships to join in this revelation, this new light in the world.

The word epiphany comes from the Greek epiphaneia, meaning “manifestation.”  The Merriam-Webster dictionary further defines the manifestation as:

1.  especially of a divine being

2.  a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something

3.  an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure

4.  an intuitive grasp of reality through something (such as an event) usually simple and striking

5.  a revealing scene or moment

Maya Angelou's defines Epiphany as “the occurrence when the mind, the body, the heart, and the soul focus together and see an old thing in a new way."

Epiphany brings me new hope because it affirms that there is always the possibility of something new happening in our thoughts, in our lives, and in the world.  We just need to pay attention.  We need a spiritual contemplative, meditative practice to help us be attentive.  We need our spiritual practice to ground us where our hope truly resides, in the “power of love and renewal that lives within the universe, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God.” (Sallie McFague).  Jesus as Prophet shows us that “God offers us quiet, contemplative eyes; God also calls us to prophetic and critical involvement in the pain and sufferings of our world – both at the same time.” (Richard Rohr)

For many Christians, Epiphany is not just one day, but the beginning of a season that lasts until the first day of Lent.  For me, the Epiphany season is one of new beginnings, new hope, bringing light to the word, and a time to focus on the attributes of my God in the world - kindness, strength, hospitality, equality, creativity, beauty, truth, love. 

Epiphany asks me these questions:  How am I doing as the manifestation of these attributes in my life?  How can I bring more of these things into my life?  How is my spiritual practice supporting me?  How attentive am I to Spirit’s message of love in the midst of my own pain and the sufferings of the world?  How can I bring the light of Epiphany into the world?

Copyright 2024 Constance B. Yost. All rights reserved.