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Epiphany and the New Year

by Erin Daly | January 4, 2014

Scripture Reflection for the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Sunday, January 5, 2014)

Scripture Readings:
Isaiah 60:1-6
Psalm 72
Ephesians 3:2-3A, 5-6
Matthew 2:1-12

This year, more than usual, I find it wonderful that the feast of The Epiphany coincides with the start of the new year.  That’s probably because I never gave it much thought before this year, but since I’ve actually taken a few moments to ponder what both the Epiphany and the new year mean for most people, I’ve noticed that they fit together well.

Many people see New Year’s as an invitation to spruce up their lives by starting over and introducing something new into their daily routine:  to quit a bad habit, to get into better shape, to be more organized, to fix a rocky relationship.  Of course, every day is a good day for a fresh start, but there’s something about seeing a different year on the calendar that makes it a fitting time to start anew.  The past has been cleared from our walls, our desks, our computers and phones to make room for what’s next.

And I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I want my 2014 to look.  2013 had its peaks and its valleys.  I graduated from college, got my driver’s license, traveled to Ohio for an amazing music festival, met some wonderful people at said music festival, joined the team of writers for an online arts magazine, and more.  But I also had a not-very-nice experience with living in an apartment over the summer.  I struggled to find work and didn’t get hired on full-time when a temporary job ended.  I’ve spent much of my post-graduation life feeling like I don’t have anything to offer the world and wondering why I didn’t study something in college that might have made me more employable.  I don’t know that I’ve ever felt more discouraged and anxious in my life as I did in 2013.

The feast of the Epiphany, though, is an extra reminder that I (and I’m sure many others) should not begin the new year on a sour note.  Just consider the very first sentence of the feast’s first reading, from Isaiah:  “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem!”  “Splendor” is a strong word, as it evokes powerful feelings of joy and amazement.  No somberness here!  Even the fact that the sentence ends in an exclamation mark is a giveaway that the feast is to be met with joy.  The reading goes on to predict what will fill the land when the King arrives:  “…you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow…”  Sure enough, in the Gospel reading, Matthew says that the Magi were “overjoyed” at the site of the Star of Bethlehem as they searched for the newborn King.

But why are the Magi overjoyed, and why should we be?  Of course, the Epiphany also marks the end of the Christmas season (so if you’re one to keep your tree and lights up a bit past December 25, no worries!), when we celebrate and ponder the mystery of God’s incarnation.  He became our Emmanuel—“God with us.”  The Creator of the universe chose to become a part of humanity, to immerse himself fully into not just our triumphs and joys but also our suffering, our weakness, our need.  That says something, both about our God and about us.  It says that our God empathizes with us; he shares our experiences.  And it says that we are worth so much to him.  It’s like the Epiphany is our final big reminder of that before we end the Christmas season and go back to Ordinary Time.

And I think that’s what the Lord has been laying on my heart as I start 2014:  That he is with me, and that I should rejoice because of it, even if my life isn’t where I want it to be right now.  Jesus’ message, the Gospel, is about joy.  Christians can find joy and peace in Jesus’ words regardless of their current circumstances.  And New Year’s is a perfect time to remember that and to resolve to live a life of joy.  It’s not an easy life; sometimes wallowing in sadness is preferable to actually trying to remain positive and joyful.  But it’s certainly a worthwhile life.


Image: Edward Burne-Jones - The Adoration of the Magi - Google Art Project. From Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.

Author information Erin Daly

Erin is a 2011 Catholics on Call alum who is now serving the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston as a missionary out of the Bishop Hodges Pastoral Center in Huttonsville, West Virginia.  So far her job has involved serving the poor in her area, camping, canoeing, zip-lining, log rolling, learning fun new campfire songs, making awesome friends, and learning that her guitar-playing and singing abilities are nowhere near as poor as she thought.  It will also involve traveling the state of West Virginia to bring Jesus to young people.  When she’s not busy with her ministry tasks, Erin likes to listen to music and write.

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