Epiphany. I learned the word from Mr. Heagney, my English teacher, two decades ago, and I’ve been smitten with it ever since. Not only does it dance off the tongue nicely, but the meaning itself is magical: a sudden illuminating discovery or idea; a revelation; the moment the proverbial lightbulb goes on.
Epiphany is a remarkable day on the church calendar too: the holiday marking the revelation of God’s Son to the Magi. This was one of God’s brightest ideas ever: Heaven breaking through to earth. Darkness being trounced by starlight. Kings bowing down before the true King. Hope busting through in the most glorious way.
I long for epiphanies myself. I yearn for the lightbulb to go on, for my fuzzy thinking to clear. I’m desperate for that creative idea, or for the key that will unlock my confusion or doubt or fear. I want to see a star from the east and drop everything to follow. I want a sign.
I’ve had a few moments like that in my life. Micro-revelations, perhaps, but glimpses of the divine nevertheless. Yet those moments are rare. Most days there are no stars in the night sky, no signs, no epiphanies. Most days I’m just treading along a dark path, half-hoping, half-praying that I’m headed in the right direction.
What they don’t tell you about epiphanies is that the star doesn’t stay in the sky forever. After the Magi visited God Incarnate, they headed back to their own country, back to their ordinary lives. Maybe their hearts were irrevocably changed, but life went on.
So what does it look to live out Epiphany even when there’s no miracle at the moment, when the star has faded in the night sky?
That’s when it’s time to hold on, my friend. What you saw when you glimpsed the divine—it was real. What you felt in that moment when God touched your heart—it was valid. The words of hope you heard whispered in the middle of the night—they were true.
So keep believing in the epiphanies. Keep looking for them. They will come. But don’t depend on them. Because faith means holding on to the fact that heaven broke through earth, even after the star has dimmed and you have to go back to your ordinary life. Faith means remembering that miracles are true, even when it’s been some time since you witnessed one firsthand.
Faith means holding on to Epiphany even when there’s no sign. It’s choosing to light a candle when the starlight has faded.
Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.