Epiphany:  Finding Christ after Christmas

Every year I fight the commercialization of Christmas, and then I buy into it like everybody else.  I spend weeks baking and decorating, buying gifts and wrapping them, planning holiday parties.  The big day comes in a whirl of lights and music . . . and then before I know it, it’s gone.  There’s an emptiness around my heart, something I can’t quite name.  Where is the child all the fuss was about? Where is Jesus?

1024px-Edward_Burne-Jones_Star_of_Bethlehem

I wonder if the Church, our wise Mother, knew it might be like this when she made January 6 a celebration of Christ’s Epiphany – “manifestation.”  Twelve days after Christmas, when our gifts are put away and we’ve all but forgotten that baby in the manger, we’re ready to be pointed back toward him.  (The Feast of the Epiphany is celebrated on January 6 by many Catholics throughout the world. In most countries, including the United States, the Epiphany was celebrated this past Sunday.)  It’s time to visit the child and take another look; to see him with new eyes and pay him homage.

Reading the account in Matthew 2, I think how my experience is like the first Epiphany.  From their home “in the East” (Persia?), Magi see a new star in the sky. Somehow they know it announces the birth of a new king of the Jews, so they travel to Jerusalem—the royal city and most-likely birthplace.  I imagine the final leg of their journey is full of excited anticipation as they plan to greet the king.  But instead, they meet with ignorance and apathy.  If there was any celebration at the birth, it’s over. The event doesn’t lived up to their expectation.

How easy it might have been to think they were mistaken.  Maybe they were wrong about the star.  What kind of king would not be welcomed by the country’s leaders? And yet the Magi don’t give up.  They learn of a prophesy that he would be born in Bethlehem and they head out of town.  And when they do —”lo!” — the star they saw back home, comes out and leads them.  They follow to a most unlikely place, a humble house where they find the child with his mother.  Rejoicing even before they enter, the Magi fall down before the child and worship.

I’m serious, today, about wanting to find the Christ-child.  I want to capture what I missed in all the holiday excitement.  And so I take a cue from the Magi and make my way to Jesus’s house, to church.  Prostrating myself before the Blessed Sacrament, I start to pray.  Now what?  Again, I look to the Magi:  “Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh” (Mt 2:11).

Maybe in expecting to receive, I’ve missed the point.  What can I give him?

I must “open my treasures” and find something to offer:

  • Gold: Not only money, my possessions.  All that I have, the things I so often grasp myself.
  • Frankincense: This represents worship.  All of my praise, my adoration, admiration, respect—all that I so often direct toward others.
  • Myrrh: A spice used in burial.  Preparation for death.  All of my life, which I so want to control and use to my own ends.

In thinking of things to give, I realize I am finding the Christ child.  He is made manifest in this world when I give of my treasure.  He is made manifest in this world when I worship and offer him praise.  He is made manifest in this world when I give my life.  He who was made manifest one day long ago in a small home in Bethlehem is made manifest daily as I—and you —do these things now.

“They departed to their own country by another way” (Mt 2:12). The Magi have seen and believed; they have turned around; they are in a sense converted.

I, too, return home by another way or at least in another way, with a heart turned toward him.  My own conversion continues.  I have seen the Christ-child, and I carry him with me into the world.

© 2016 Sarah Christmyer


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Sarah Christmyer

Sarah Christmyer is co-developer with Jeff Cavins of The Great Adventure Catholic Bible study program. She serves as Strategic Consultant of The Great Adventure and is author or co-author of a number of the studies. Sarah has thirty years of experience leading and teaching Bible studies. She helped launch Catholic Scripture Study and is co-author of "Genesis Part I: God and His Creation" and "Genesis Part II: God and His Family," published by Emmaus Road. Sarah has a BA in English literature from Gordon College in Wenham, MA, and is working toward a Masters of Theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. Raised in a strong evangelical family, she was received into the Catholic Church in 1992. Sarah also writes at comeintotheword.com/.

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  • Maggie

    Our God is so good to us; always offering second chances. I never thought of the epiphany this way. Thanks for a new perspective and something to ponder and reflect on.

    • http://ascensionpress.com/ Sarah Christmyer

      You are welcome, Maggie. I have really been blessed by the Epiphany this year. It’s good to be able to share.

  • Linuxology

    Bravo!!! Jesus definitely did not come on an worldly way and is a King much higher than what we typically envision in the earthly format. All Hail to the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Praise you Lord Jesus please come into my heart as you were in that manger. Great write up Sarah! Well done!!

  • Maria Elizabeth

    Thank you Sarah! I needed to read this today. I officially moved to another town on January 1st and spent most of my time during the latter part of Advent into the Octave of Christmas completing the move. The furniture was actually moved into my new place the Sunday after Christmas. I’m still living amongst boxes and “stuff!” I have been trying to shake the “feeling” that I “missed” most of Christmas and was trying to remind myself that Christmas is not over! The Lord answered my prayer through your words. I have a beautiful 8″ Christ Child in a Manger that I’m going to put in a special place and continue to celebrate Christmas until the Feast of the Presentation (which I usually do each year). Thank you!
    BTW, my friends and I attend the National Bible Conference each year – and I am always so inspired by your presentations! God bless you.
    Maria Elizabeth

  • Marianne

    Great post, Sarah. Sometimes we need to remember that Christmas is not about all the hype leading up to one day. It’s about God’s plan for our salvation which started so long ago. He wants to walk with us every day, to lead us toward eternity with Him.

    I work a couple blocks from the Blessed Sacrament shrine where I try to go almost every day for adoration. Even if it’s only for a few minutes on a lunch break, I treasure this time before the Lord. Away from chaos of the daily routine, ringing phones and so on, I can bask in the stillness and silence and listen to Him.

    BTW, looking forward to repeating the 90 Day Challenge! Thank you!

  • Joan Spalding

    I just love this, Sarah. Thank you. Offer Him my will, everything I’ve been given, and my praise. So much better than feeling down and guilty!

  • Mo

    I also needed to read this. As a Mother and Grandmother, there is just no way I can’t ‘not’ do all the work that leads up to my family coming to my house on Christmas Eve. I’m making wonderful memories for them, and I am happy to do it. But each year on Christmas Day, I begin to feel the let down as they are all gone, and all I am is worn out. I visit Jesus in Adoration that day and I bemoan that once again I feel I somehow “missed” the real meaning. And then Epiphany comes and our Parish Choir does “Lessons and Carols” and even with a migraine I didn’t miss it this year. It is the one day when everything is done, and I can sit in His presence and bask in His Word and be lifted up by the music and just really feel as if I didn’t miss it after all. It is always here even if it might not seem like it on Christmas Day.