I’m sure I’ve seen a meme somewhere online that says “Keep Calm and say Merry Christmas.” As I prepare this post (to be posted on January 6, the feast of Epiphany), it is still Christmas, although most people give strange looks if you wish them “Merry Christmas” after the first of the year. Heck, they look at you funny if you say “Merry Christmas” on Dec. 26 – by that time, the accepted greeting is “Happy New Year” and spent Christmas trees are already beginning to pile up.
Rather than bemoan the fact that the liturgical Christmas season is short (so much great music! So little time!), I’ll take a moment to consider what Epiphany means in a broader context.
Christians know this is when we traditionally celebrate the arrival of the Magi. Their gift-giving has been transmuted into the crazy Christmas gift rush that we love to hate.
Christmas invites us to consider the meaning of the Incarnation in our everyday lives. Each year, we are asked “what gifts can we give to the Christ Child?” Epiphany invites us to consider our own gifts.
What gifts have you been given? What talents and passion do you have and use to make the world even just a little bit better? The gifts we are given are the seeds of what we give to others, for we cannot give what we do not have and we cannot give without knowing how to receive.
We admonish small children who anticipate Santa’s arrival. Is that all you can think about, we adults say, what Santa is going to GIVE you? What about poor children who have nothing? Somehow we manage to taint the excitement of receiving a gift with guilt over receiving it. Maybe I’m way out of line here, but I’d like to think that we are meant to be excited about gifts. The apostle Paul spoke of receiving gifts of the Spirit, that’s certainly worthy of excitement!
Some gifts are eagerly accepted, and some are not. There are many things in life that we may not see as gifts. When I worked in oncology, I knew many people who felt their cancer was a curse, and many others that felt it was a gift. (Most of the time, it was a combination of feelings!) The term “mixed blessing” indicates that such reactions are a part of the human experience.
Epiphany is the perfect time to take account of our gifts, the obvious ones and not-so-obvious ones. How can you use your own gifts this year to shine Divine Love in the world?