We celebrate the Day of Epiphany on the 12th day of Christmas each year. Since we celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25, the Day of Epiphany falls on Jan. 6, and for us that’s this Thursday. The Day of Epiphany is set aside to recall the moment when the Magi arrived at the doorstep of the home of Joseph, Mary, and their newborn baby, Yeshua, also known as Jesus (Some scholars believe Jesus could have been as old as 2 by the time the Magi came.) It’s the day the prophesied Messiah was “realized” by the wise men who anticipated His arrival, and followed the star which actually suddenly appeared, and moved to guide them (see Matthew and Luke).
An epiphany is a realization of something significant or big. So, it makes sense we would call the day the Magi fully realized the Messiah had come in the form of a baby — just as Scripture predicted hundreds of years before. This would have been huge to them. They likely knew the implications, and probably understood this and the following events in the life of the Messiah would be world-changing.
Some of us procrastinate taking down the Christmas decorations, trees, lights, etc. Some purposely leave things up in the hopes of stretching out the goodness of the Christmas holidays. I like to joke around with people when I see their outside Christmas lights still up in the spring by saying, “Wow, you’re starting early.”
I had an epiphany about the holidays when I was just a high school kid many years ago. The Spilmans and the Fosters lived right across the street from us, and this was back in the day when neighbors knew each other much better than they do today. We knew everyone on each side, behind, down the street, etc.
One night I awoke with lights, flashing around my bedroom. I looked outside and saw an ambulance, loading Mr. Spilman into the back of it. Later, I learned Mr. Spilman didn’t make it. They lost their family patriarch.
I wondered what the holidays would be like in their home without the father. How could they celebrate with an empty place at the table? How could they enjoy the holidays like the rest of us with such a huge void?
Within my high school years, the other neighbors across the street, similarly, had to adjust. Tonya was younger than me — still in elementary school at the time I believe. Mr. Foster, her father, told her he was going to take her Christmas shopping later that day. When they pulled her out of class, she just knew her dad was coming to pick her up early to start the Christmas shopping. However, it was her mother and brother, who were there to tell her of her father’s untimely and unexpected death.
I remember not knowing how to act around them after that. Not that I wanted anything bad to happen to my family, but it seemed so unfair we could celebrate Christmas, together, as a family, while the Fosters and the Spilmans did so without their patriarchs. I wondered what the other neighbors were going through, as well, and I thanked God for the blessings He granted my family and me each Christmas.
It was an epiphany. I realized God granted me good and special Christmases, and not everyone loved the holidays like I did.
Over the years, we’ve had to deal with losing patriarchs and matriarchs and others in my family. Yes, there are huge voids as the people who used to spend the holidays with us are no longer with us. So I am determined to appreciate what we have, and to try to create new and good Christmas memories, rather than dwelling on the fact we can never have time back with the people who had gone on to eternity.
Sometimes people will look back and think fondly of people who’ve passed away, forgetting some of the negative thoughts they use to unnecessarily carry with them. It’s as if time helps us to think more positively about others who are no longer around.
I’ve witnessed many people tell loved ones on their deathbeds how much they mean to them. For some, they had never communicated those words before. It’s like we want to make sure things are not left unsaid — just before someone passes away. It’s a good thing to capitalize on those moments for sure.
I’ve tried to learn from my life experiences as much as possible. My epiphany in high school is something I think about often and try to apply on a regular basis. I want to make the most of the time I have left with the people I love.
It’s more than that. I want to help others learn to make the most of the time they have left with the people they love.
Why wait until someone is near death to tell them how special they are? Why wait until someone is gone to note how important they are in our lives? Why wait for time to help us to think more positively about people? Why wait for the holidays to let God bring out the best in us? Why wait?
As we celebrate the Day of Epiphany, may we use this as an opportunity to have one. May we come to a big realization that there is no reason to wait and every reason to act now. We must be determined to think and act more positively, and be more deliberately loving people. The opportunities will not always be there. Now is the time to have an epiphany and start proactively impacting others for God’s sake.
“These are evil times, so make every minute count (Ephesians 5:16, CEV).”
Pastor Jeff Adams is a longtime community leader, victim advocate, counselor and chaplain. He ministers internationally, nationally and locally. His column appears online weekly and can be reached at email@example.com.
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