Parish Universalist Church
790 Washington Street, P. O. Box 284, Stoughton, Massachusetts 02072
Church School: 10:45 AM
Here’s to Epiphanies Great and Small
Rev. Jeffrey Symynkywicz, January 2, 2011
There is, I think, a natural correlation between Epiphany Sunday—the Christian festival which commemorates the adoration of the infant Jesus by the Three Wise Men—and our customary New Year’s service, in which we look back at the milestones of the past year, and forward to our hopes for that which is about to begin. For, as T.S. Eliot said in his epic poem, “Journey of the Magi”, that first Epiphany was an event on the cusp of an age: an event marking the death of one age, and the birth of another:
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
Or, as Madeline L’Engle wrote in a selection some of you might remember from our Christmas Eve service:
“The wise men were wise men indeed, men of great intellectual sophistication;
but… they understood that the birth of a
single child could affect the entire universe, just as physicists today
understand that all creation is a single organism. Nothing happens in isolation.
The crying of a baby sends sound waves to galaxies thousand of light years
away…. So these ancient astronomers believed that something was happening in
This is the spirit, I think, that is at the heart of the hope we can feel with the coming of the new year; it’s what Hermann Hesse spoke of as “the magic that dwells in each new beginning”. It is important to have this sense of new beginning as we face another year of living; this sense that the slate has been wiped clean; this chance to let go, both of our triumphs and our frustrations. It allows us to discover that while we are all products of our pasts, we need not wallow in either our pride or our guilt. We can let go, and know that at the new year, symbolically at least, we have the chance to start things anew. We have the opportunity, at least, to re-orient our lives according to whatever new star lights our way.
I don’t believe it’s an accident that Epiphany comes near the start of the New Year (any more than it’s an accident that Christmas comes so close to the Solstice, so close to the darkest night of the entire year). The New Year presents us with the chance, at least psychologically, to discern what epiphanies, great and small, we are offered at this season. What holy infants— what divine possibilities—what higher ideals—what new insights and new opportunities—have been made to dwell within us, or among us, in the new year that is coming to birth? What new things have been revealed to us at this turning of the year, at this changing of the age?
What infants of new hope and new possibility will we fall down to worship?
What Herods of repression and fear will we turn our backs upon and leave dead in our pasts? Which addictions and afflictions, and past shame and past hurt, can we let go of, before they drag us down, or slaughter whatever innocence is left within our hearts?
Which road will we choose to return to the true homeland of which we dream?
Epiphany presents a new hope to us, and New Year gives us the opportunity to act
upon that hope. But that doesn’t mean that life is going to get any easier. No
one ever chronicled the Wise Men’s journey home, but it couldn’t have been an
easy trip. If getting to
We have been given the opportunity to discern new ideals in this life. We are often given the gifts of character and spirit we need to act upon them. But that doesn’t guarantee us anything of easy success, and to the contrary, it can make life even more difficult for us. It can even make things dangerous for us. It might be so much easier just to go back to Herod, tell him where the child is, and wait for our imperial honorarium check to arrive in the mail.
But there’s that spark—that divine spark—that continues to burn within us. There is that spirit of “something more” that will not let us go. In spite of the voices whispering in our ears, telling us that all is folly, we persevere. We have courage; we cling to faith; and dawn comes, and we find at last, below the snowline, the temperate valley, smelling of life, and our souls are refreshed, and we go on:
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
And we go on hoping. “I’m stuck like a dope/ with this thing called hope/ and I can’t get it out of my heart.” Not because I’m a “cockeyed-optimist”, not at all; but simply because hope is that dimension of the human spirit which makes life worth living.
And we go on dreaming. For to refuse to dream is to squander the new year we have before us. “You’ve got to have a dream/ if you don’t have a dream/ how you gonna have a dream come true?”
(Somebody got the South Pacific soundtrack for Christmas!)
So, my friends, as another new year turns, remember your ideals; cherish your dreams.
Hold fast to those things which give you hope. Remember the lights that have shown in darkness for you, and kindle those lights anew within the depths of your souls, over and over again, if need be.
Remember that with each new day, the miracle of the Creation is enacted anew. And each one of us is part of the miracle.
May the blessings of the new year be with you all. And may the blessings of all of us be with this new year.