A day of Epiphany in more ways than one.
On the liturgical calendar, January 6 is the most ancient day for celebrating the birth of Jesus. ‘Tis the day of his birthday party when the three kings traversed afar and followed a star and brought him three gifts. It is the 12th of the 12 days of Christmas. Twelfth Night!
And it was on this twelfth day, that as a kid, the Magi finally found their way to the stable. The Magi in our nativity set, that is. And it took them a while. They traversed from room to room, including the bathroom, until they found the spot where Jesus lay lying in a manger. In the dining room set up on the harvest table.
And this was the day that all the Christmas frippery came down. A bittersweet day when all the decorations were packed away. Advent calendars, creches, Christmas trees, and wreaths.
Christmas is but a brief and beautiful season, when the darkness of winter has only begun to scatter away.
A day of infamy that went down in 2021.
A year ago, the Bishops of the Diocese of Virginia wrote:
On this Feast of the Epiphany, when we celebrate the visitation of the Wise Ones to the Christ Child and his family in Bethlehem, we have witnessed, a very different kind of visitation on our American family in Washington, D.C. Violence has erupted in our capitol city, threatening lives and tearing the very fabric of our democratic process.
The Capitol was stormed like a medieval castle. Stormed violently, in-order-to disrupt the counting of electoral ballots. Hundreds were injured. Many died. Capitol Police officers were wounded and five lost their lives – two to suicide, in the aftermath of this most tragic day. A day of national disgrace.
I wish I could say that as a country we banded together as Americans one and all. Like we did after 9/11 – when the Pentagon was attacked, and the Twin Towers came down. But we seem only more deeply divided and ever so lost. Lost as if in some dark age.
Petula Dvorak wrote in this Sunday’s Washington Post:
Isn’t that what our nation has been stewing in these past few years – a medieval pottage of religious extremism, anti-science sneering, conspiracy theories and ill-conceived, ragtag spear and pole crusades? Heck, we even have a plague.
The darkening of our times was particularly evident on January 6.
“What we were subjected to that day was like something from a medieval battlefield,” said Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, one of the U.S. Capitol Police officers who fought in the most emblematic moments of America’s New Dark Ages, the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. “We fought hand-to-hand and inch-by-inch to prevent an invasion of the Capitol by a violent mob intent on subverting our democratic process.“
In Charlottesville 3½ years earlier, torches gave a medieval glow to right-wing marchers in khakis and camo who also carried banners with Norse runes, shields, and crosses.
Crusaders’ crosses. Recalling the dark days of Christians slaughtering the infidels.
I’d like to believe this is all behind us. That we can turn the calendar page and it will all go away. But according to a recent poll, nearly a third of Americans believe violence against the government may be justified if they believe their cause is the right one.
So, where are the Wise Ones when we need them?
Well, let’s look back biblically to the story of the Magi in the Gospel of Matthew.
When they heard the king, they set out; and there ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then opening their treasure chests, they offered him gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another way.
They left for their own country by another way.
By another way.
To follow that Child is another way — The Way, which just happens to be the oldest name given to Christianity.
To follow the Way of that Child, is wrapped up beautifully in the Beatitudes, in Matthew Chapter 5. A shorthand for all of scripture.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Let’s pin this on our refrigerators and read it with our morning coffee. Let’s stick it on our computers and recite it like the Daily Office. Let’s leave it by our bedside, to pray the night away.
Blessed may we all be. Blessed Epiphany. Blessed January 6, 2022.
The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog