United Thank Offering

Epiphany: Hope and Gratitude

January 4, 2022
United Thank Offering

By the Rev. Heather L. Melton, staff officer for the United Thank Offering

One of the things that you might not know about me is that I am a huge fan of folk art and local traditions. With the internet, we’ve been able to learn about all sorts of things that people do to make art or celebrate life events; unfortunately, as we share information, sometimes traditions get lost, merged, or simply changed. Epiphany is one of my favorite feast days in The Episcopal Church because of all the amazing ways that people celebrate it. Some of you will welcome the arrival of the three kings with presents (for our Episcopalian family in Italy, La Bufana will bring gifts to children). Others will celebrate with a three kings party or with rosca de reyas. Still others will usher in “king cake” season and an extended period of Mardi Gras. Others will chalk their doorway; some will go to church for candles to be blessed. Some households will remove their Christmas decorations. There are so many ways to celebrate Epiphany—it is sort of a magical moment around the world where people note not only the shift in the seasons but an important moment in our liturgical year. It’s a moment to give thanks for what was and what will be. Epiphany marks a transitional moment in the story of our faith as a new year begins to unfold.

It’s easy to forget about Epiphany for those of us from places where it is not a massive celebration, since it often falls in the middle of the week, in the midst of work and school and life busyness—but I think this is why it is so very important to take notice of it. Epiphany is a reminder of the gifts of faith and hope that the world is becoming something new and different. It is a reminder that God is always inviting us to notice what is happening around us, in our dreams, in the sky, in our communities, and in our families. Epiphany is about a whole lot of folks noticing things—from the wise men noticing a star, paying attention to their dreams and bringing totally inappropriate gifts for a baby (remember our talk about foreboding joy last month?) to Jesus’ family and community noticing that things weren’t at all what they expected, either. There’s a lot happening in this community, a lot to notice and potentially overlook. It’s clear, however, that our job is to notice and receive the gifts of Epiphany. Many of the celebrations around the world help us remember to notice and receive.

This Epiphany I hope you will find ways to notice what God is doing in the world around you and receive the gifts that the Holy Spirit is bringing. For many of us, a new year means hopefulness, found in resolutions or in the change in calendar and the thought that maybe this year will be better than the last. The days are slowly starting to have more daylight in the Northern Hemisphere, which for many of us is a welcome sign that spring will come again. For others this break in time between the celebration of Christmas and the reflection of Lent is a welcome exhalation on the liturgical calendar and a beautiful reminder to notice transitions and rest. Whatever the beginning of 2022 means to you, or however you celebrate Epiphany in your home, I hope you will take a moment to notice the gifts the Holy Spirit has sent you, either in the friends and family you surround yourself with, or in the people whose names you do not know but who make your life easier (from the grocer to the trash collector) and give thanks for all these things. I hope you’ll take a moment to get curious about how other cultures or communities within The Episcopal Church experience Epiphany and give thanks for those things, too. Mostly, I hope you will give thanks for the year that was and the gifts the new year might bring us. 

May 2022 be a year filled with the hope of Epiphany, and may we be curious, kind, and brave as we go out into the world anew as the gifts of God for the people of God. Thank you for being that gift.

The Rev. Cn.
Heather Melton

Staff Officer for the United Thank Offering

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