Article of the week: Happy Epiphany!
1 January 2022
A message from Territorial Commander Commissioner Anthony Cotterill
BY the time you read this issue of Salvationist it is possible that the 12 days of Christmas will still be in full swing, if only in theory – but very soon after moving into 2022 we leave Christmas behind and enter the Christian season of Epiphany. Consequently, I am tempted to greet people with ‘Happy Epiphany!’ rather than a ‘Happy new year’.
This is for two reasons. First, because for so many people the past couple of years have been anything but happy as plans and hopes have been dashed time and time again due to the pandemic. Second, because we have all discovered it is wise to live in the moment and enjoy the blessings of today rather than second-guess what the circumstances might be throughout a whole period of 12 months.
Having said that, Epiphany is not a one-day wonder marked on 6 January. In some traditions Epiphany takes us to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, so this holy season can last anything between 40 and 63 days, depending on when Easter is celebrated. However, I believe it is possible to confidently hope, wish and pray that this new season is a blessed and happy time for you – in other words, that Epiphany lives up to its name.
The word ‘epiphany’ means ‘to show’, ‘to make known’ or ‘to reveal’. In western churches Epiphany marks and remembers the coming of the wise men to Bethlehem, their bowing down in worship and of course their presenting of gifts to the Christ child. By doing so these mysterious travellers ‘reveal’ Jesus to the world as Lord and King. The second verse of ‘We Three Kings of Orient Are’ testifies to this truth:
Born a King on Bethlehem plain,
Gold I bring to crown him again,
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign.
An epiphanic experience is not a million miles away from the ‘eureka’ moment which describes the ecstasy and joy that comes when there is a dawning of clarity and understanding as truth is revealed, especially after a period of searching or contemplation and reflection. Additionally, it isn’t such a big jump from epiphany and eureka to kairos, which is the next step beyond realisation. The kairos moment is about knowing the right time to act and move forward.
Everyone knows that as individuals, as families, as communities and certainly as The Salvation Army we have been through such turmoil throughout 2020 and 2021. In many places we were stopped in our tracks, some for longer than others, as we then responded to the call of God to step up and be The Salvation Army in the new world that we all now inhabit. Consistently, from the very first days of lockdown, we have talked about not going back but always going forward. We still need to grapple with that and seek what God is revealing to us – then be bold enough to act.
There is a well-known verse from Proverbs in the King James Version that says, ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish’ (29:18). I understand that a more accurate translation from the Hebrew would render this, ‘Where there is no revelation, the people run wild.’ The ‘running wild’ phrase uses the same words that describe the behaviour of the children of Israel while Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments from God. They took all their gold and made a golden calf to worship. They were doing their own thing – they were doing the wrong thing. They needed fresh revelation, and so do we.
I have been encouraged to see and learn of so many expressions of Salvationism up and down the territory purposefully waiting on God and seeking epiphany: ‘Lord, what is it that you are revealing to us?’ ‘Lord, what is it you need us to be and do?’ ‘What do we need to stop doing and what do we need to start doing to see your Kingdom come with power?’ ‘Lord, here I am wholly available to you. What have you to say to me?’
That’s why I am greeting people with ‘Happy Epiphany!’ – I am hoping the response from many will be: ‘Eureka, I’ve got it!’
I am trusting that leads to many kairos moments – knowing the time to act is upon us, as individuals, families, corps and as a God-led Salvation Army heading into 2022.
God bless you!