The end of the beginning: Religion column

Published 7:00 am Saturday, January 6, 2018

By Fr. Jonathan J. Filkins

quick browse through any of our stores, or a few clicks on the internet, will soon reveal the lightening closure to the Christmas marketing season. Gone are the sprightly displays and attendant popular seasonal music, which has now become so tedious and tiresome. In their place are rather unkept stacks of the leftovers; replete with uninspired signs declaring “50 percent off, or more!”

We notice that our neighborhoods are a bit more drab too. No longer are there festive lights and displays to brighten the dark nights.

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In their place. we find the formally cherished pine tree, now absent from the homes’ interiors, bereft of decoration. It is now in repose at the curb, ready to be picked up and placed in the landfill; it’s useful days now gone.

It is all so abrupt, this shift in the seasons. Going from the warm and fuzzy feelings beginning on Thanksgiving and ending, seemingly, a few moments after Christmas Day. The sadness of the chill of earthly reality creeps in. Soon, the bills will arrive and tax forms will have to be completed. Oh well, at least we will soon be in Mardi Gras to keep our spirits up.

In truth, the Christmas Season extends far beyond what the marketing potentates tell us.  The popular song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” give us a hint, for there are twelve days, which begin at the birth of Christ and extend forward; well past the beginning of the new calendar year.

Consider that our head-long eagerness, to end Christmas, may be a bit premature.

“… behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,” in Saint Mathews telling. They followed a star which drew them there and sought to “worship him.” Their arrival, and understanding they were with the Christ, was the mark of the Epiphany; the recognition of the Child, as God, present here on earth. It marked the end of the Nativity Story, the end of the twelve days of the Christmas Season, and the beginning of the life of Jesus, as both man and God, with us. It was the end of the beginning, this Epiphany.

The Epiphany, this Great Awakening, happened on that night, seemingly so long ago. Yet, it was not exclusive to those in attendance.

After their departure, these influential men spread the word of the fulfillment of the prophets and tradition holds they frequently recounted their time with the newborn babe in that lowly stable.

Each of them brought an epiphany, an awakening, to the newfound believers.

We too have epiphanies, both large and small.

It may be a better understanding of life around us, or with a relationship. We may actually understand that our New Year’s resolution has some merit and we awaken to its reality.

If we have an open mind, even ever-so slightly, we are presented with new understandings each day.

One of the more modern sayings, is to, “Keep Christ in Christmas.” It is a quite valid expression, what with the distractions of this secular world.

Yet, we too are called to keep Christ in ourselves, far beyond the seasons. For whether it be Christmas, Mardi Gras, Lent, Easter, Spring, Summer, the Fourth of July, Fall, or Groundhog Day, the birth of Christ within ourselves is our own, personal epiphany, for He is always in “season.”

In our own “Great Epiphanies,” it is here our own awakening begins, and we have truly marked the end of the beginning, with Him, in thought, word and deed.