It’s January 6. Epiphany. Three Kings Day. Twelfth Night. Nollaig Bheag (Little Christmas). Theophany.
Celebrated in more countries than you would ever expect, it signals the end of Christmas celebrations. In our house, it’s the weekend we take down our Christmas tree. The last day you play carols until the next December 1. It’s all about stars and kings but really it’s about the manifestation of God. Seeing the holy in the ordinary.
I always preferred the shepherds part in the Nativity story to the kings in their fancy clothes and exorbitant gifts. The kings seem so out of place, and of course, that’s the point. But there is that pilgrimage aspect to the kings role in the story as well. And I do like the whole idea of leaving your comfort zone, of following a star, of having people think of you as a bit crazy or deluded, of people in power trying to sabotage what may be some greater mission that you don’t even understand. Matthew’s gospel calls them wise men or magi – we’ve put the king label on them – hard to know who or what they really were.
Shepherds or wise men or women, we all end up at the same place eventually, whether we recognize the trajectory or not. Aren’t we all out there tending our sheep, either well or poorly, startled when we hear a call (whether from angels or a friend)? Aren’t we all searching for something beyond, drawn by some star, something hard to explain in a rational way?
So, tonight when the sun goes down and the stars come out – on my own little porch, in the dark of another January 6th night – I will look up at the midwestern sky and think about my own journey.
I hope it’s a clear night.