This morning I thought: “I don’t know if I can make it to the end of January.” It was 8 a.m. and there was not even a sliver of sun to be seen. It was cold. It was dreary. The kids were wound up and stir crazy. I was still sniffing and coughing from my lingering winter cold, and the forecast warned that it was going to snow. I felt defeated. The day ahead seemed very very long, and the night to come, I knew, would only feel longer. It was just so…January.
Every year I find January long, tedious, and depressing. I say this even as someone who loves to ring in the new year and who celebrates her birthday early in this month. These things I like. The problem is that somehow there is still so much January left after all of this stuff happens (doesn’t New Year’s already seem like eons ago???), and knowing there is still three weeks to go in this wretched month makes me want to crawl under the covers with a good book until Valentine’s Day.
Last week, on a particularly frigid day during this cold snap, I had to park in a public parking lot. When I drove up to the ticket dispenser, my window wouldn’t open because IT WAS FROZEN SHUT (I write this in all caps because it must be yelled). As I wedged myself around my car door to get the ticket, with a line-up behind me and my eyelashes freezing to my glasses, I cried out to the universe at large: “Why? Why do I live here?”
And I didn’t mean this country or this city or within this particular weather system, but really why HERE, in this time, this moment, this month? In January? In truth, the time in which we find ourselves can be as difficult and hard to negotiate as any space, and there are times and seasons where it seems the most helpful option would be to press fast forward and skip it all together.
Get out of January and into spring. Skip the struggle of learning and get to the joy of knowing. Bypass the grief and get to the healing.
But this is where and when I am, and neither are without their purpose. Interestingly, it has been a practice of time that has reminded me of this truth this month, and that has been pushing me out the door each day even when it’s -25 outside.
Some of my readers will know that for centuries the church has had what is called the “church calendar.” This calendar highlights important seasons and days in the Christian faith, and includes far more than the standard Easter and Christmas with which we are all most familiar. As I wrote about in my last post, for example, the season leading up to Christmas is known as Advent. It is a season of waiting. Usually, after Christmas arrives, I don’t look at the church calendar much again until Lent (the season leading up to Easter) begins. This year, however, I studied a little more, and found myself greatly challenged by the remembrance of Epiphany.
Epiphany on the church calendar falls on January 6 (although there are traditions that honour this, and other holy days, two weeks later), and it is the day that we remember the time when the Magi (or three kings, or the wise men, as they are sometimes known) came to see Jesus. This is considered the first great “manifestation” of Christ – that Christ is revealed to these men, and, more broadly speaking, to those outside the Jewish faith. It is an indication that Christ had come for the whole world. Epiphany is a celebration that God makes God’s self known.
After January 6, there are some traditions which continue to celebrate the weeks to follow as a continued season of “Epiphany,” and there are those which will mark each week in January as a certain week “after epiphany.” There are also many traditions, including my own, which don’t really talk about these seasons at all. The church calendar, after all, is not a biblical teaching. However, it is a church tradition that reminds us of the importance of many Biblical stories and also calls us to enter into the life of faith in a tangible way with the passing of each new season. This, I believe, is a gift we can sometimes miss in some of our traditions that use the church calendar less than others.
For many years, although I knew what it was, I missed Epiphany. I missed the invitation to see this season as a time to look for God’s revelation. This year, I’m glad to have heard the invitation more clearly. I know that when the church calendar was constructed that no one involved in it had any idea of what a cold Canadian January could be like, or how desperately a January-weary Canadian woman would one day need to remember this season. But I sure do need to know this month in a special way that God is always revealing God’s self, and that, like the Magi, I can seek, and I can find.
So this January, despite my reluctance, I am trying to live into Epiphany. I am resisting the urge to hide, cover up, retreat, or complain, and embracing the call to look, listen, respond, and be thankful. Already today God revealed His goodness to me in a kind gift from a friend, the encouragement of a timely message, and a nudge to contact someone I hadn’t thought of in a while. Revelation all around …and three weeks of January still to go!
Do you join me in having the January blahs? Perhaps God is also inviting you to choose Epiphany wonder over January woe. Like the Magi who followed a mysterious star, may you too see the signs of God around you and follow them towards Jesus.