Christmas has passed and we await Christmas. As I have aged I have become more aligned with the traditional Christmas date of January 6th, Epiphany. Last year we were in Spain for the long holiday, and experienced the community joy that accompanies nurturing the Christmas season through the twelve days ending in Epiphany.
It seems to me that in our uber consumerist culture we have forgotten that the first gifts were meant for the Christ Child, and that the Child was, almost from the very beginning, in mortal danger. Epiphany celebrates the journey of the wise ones who sought, brought gifts to, and honored the newborn child. Then, “having been warned in a dream,” they went home another way.
Surely Epiphany reminds us that we are all searching for the Child and all children are at risk. How easily we forget that each child is the incarnation of the Divine! How routinely we incarcerate, exile, and abuse children, ignoring the most striking mandates of Jesus and the sages! I suspect Jesus minced no words when he threatened those who harm children, whether institutional or individual, with Hell Fire. Surely harm done to children comes back to damn all of us.
But I am getting ahead of myself. Before We arrive at Epiphany, we must pass into the New Year. Our contemporary New Year is out of sync with the ancient Christian liturgical calendar and Nature’s cycles. Traditionally, the European New year was celebrated in early Spring, and marked the return of growth; it was a hopeful green, holy day. Just as people tied Jesus’ birth to the return of the sun, they celebrated the rebirth of Nature as the start of yet another year. Easter and Passover now mark the renewal of springtide as New Year languishes as a sort of mid-winter bacchanalia.
Still, tomorrow we begin a new calendar year. Days are noticeably longer than they were just two weeks ago. The sun rises a bit further north each morning, is a tad higher at midday, and sets later each evening. Yet, here in the mid latitudes of the northern hemisphere, even in this year’s mild winter, spring seems far off. The true renewal of the year has to wait a while.