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Finding the meaning of Epiphany

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Have you had an epiphany lately?

I couldn’t find it in my dictionary — epiphany. I looked in my old Webster’s college dictionary and in my current pocket dictionary at my church office. No epiphany. I found it in my Harper’s Bible Dictionary. Epiphany speaks of the manifestation of Christ to the world. It is celebrated in the Christian church on Jan. 6. This celebration originally commemorated Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:9) and his changing of water into wine at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11.) Later the visit of the Magi (Matt. 2:1-12) was added. I recalled having learned some of this.

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Finally, at home, I found epiphany in my new Oxford American Desk Dictionary. After citing the Christian meaning, the Oxford definition is “a moment of profound insight.” That’s what I thought too.

In Littlefork, right next to International Falls (Ice Box of the Nation), we sometimes stood outside on the night of Jan. 6 and burned our now-dried-out Christmas trees. The flames, Lord willing, would snap, crackle and rise toward the clear, star-specked heavens above. The surrounding darkness would be driven back and the circled folks would draw closer to feel the warmth of the fire. We were celebrating the coming of the Light of the World — Jesus. We were remembering the wise men that followed the star to honor his birth. We were joining with our Nordic ancestors in claiming the promise that darkness does not have the last word, even there close to the longest night of the year.

As Christians, we are people of the light. The gospels Luke and Matthew recount the familiar Christmas stories of Jesus’ birth. Mark makes no mention of it. John paints this picture. “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God… What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it… The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1:1-9)

Darkness, winter, seasonal affective disorder, post-Christmas bills, energy assistance, the flu, cold, cabin fever, school shootings — this is where we live, Minnesota and the world beyond. We can try to go it alone. We can try to make our own light in the face of the world’s toughest challenges. Or, we can come to the light.

God’s word, prayer, daily devotions, worship, fellowship, the body of Christ, mutual support, shared mission, Holy Spirit advocating for us from deep within our very own souls and psyches. This is also where we live if we so choose, if we are open. God dwells in both places 24/7.

Epiphany. Light. Jesus. For you and for me. Maybe there will be a moment where we suddenly, or gradually understand something in a new or very clear way. Light. Jesus. For you. On Jan. 6, we entered the season of Epiphany, the season of light. Thanks be to God.

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