If you ask my youngest son what his favorite ornament on our tree is, he’ll point to a square glass ornament, red and white, shaped like a present.
“That one,” he’ll say, lightly touching it with a gentleness not usually seen from a five-year old. He’ll smile at you, look back at it, and stare at it in a way that makes you want to be the ornament: with awe and wonder and possibility and love.
Who knows? When his back is turned, maybe it becomes a real present, falling like an apple from the tree to be opened on Christmas morning. The imagination is wild and wonderful, especially at five.
January 6th is the Feast of the Epiphany, and in our house that means taking down the decorations at the end of the night, blessing the house, and formally folding up Christmastide.
But we didn’t do it yesterday.
In fact, we ushered our kids out of the living room where the tree with the beautiful present ornament resides. We stuck a toy they got for Christmas in their hands and told them to play as long as they wanted for the afternoon as we looked in pained faces at the screen in front of us.
Horror on the Capitol.
You kind of want your kids to look at their lives with awe and wonder and possibility and love, right? Like that ornament: who knows what can happen?
But what do you do with a day like yesterday? A day when leaders they’re supposed to trust and follow turn on them? When the highest office of the land curves in on itself like a deranged parasite, eating away at its own body to satisfy its own needs?
You leave the tree up.
You wait on that door blessing, for just one more day.
I’m not saying that you put off the holiday/holy day by any means, but you allow it to live, by God.
You allow it to live, to do the thing it’s meant to do.
Because the Epiphany is supposed to be a day of awe and wonder and possibility, a day when you honor the fact that the Divine is up to something in this world, dammit.
And yesterday was not that day.
And I don’t say that for political reasons, by the way.
I say that because, well, when words are used to incite violence–which is what happened–then the Word of God that we honor on the Epiphany, the Word sent to confront such words, is shadowed in anger and violence.
Especially because I saw, in those rioting mobs, more than one “Jesus” flag alongside a nationalistic flag that had nothing to do with a nation. I saw “Pelosi is Satan” and “Jesus Saves” signs as they broke windows and busted into the democratic halls intended to ensure our freedoms.
It’s an imperfect union, Beloved, but it’s all we’ve got at the moment. And it was not awe-some.
It was awful.
Holy days are intended not just to be observed, but to help us observe, Beloved.
What I mean is, holy days are meant to help us interpret all of life.
For instance: Advent is a time where we practice waiting so that we will know how to wait when the time comes. For births. For deaths. For new jobs. For the next big thing. For anything! Advent teaches us how to wait.
Lent, likewise, teaches us repentance…and Lord knows we need some of that in this world.
The rhythm of the church year is meant to help us breathe, to keep time, to know what to do next in life. But it is, above anything and everything, practice for those times in our lives when we’ll need to put these sacred skills into practice!
I’ve been in a season of Advent in my heart all throughout Lent when I was waiting for my son to be born. I was absolutely in a season of growth (Pentecost) when Lent descended on my heart at the death of my grandmother.
The seasons of the church teach us how to be in the world, if we’re willing to pay attention.
And so, yes, yesterday was the Epiphany. But it wasn’t an Epiphany.
In fact, what was needed more than anything yesterday was a little more Christmas, a little more celebration, a little more “God-with-us” and “Word-became-flesh” as too many angry words were spewed from the halls of power.
Yesterday needed a little more thwarting of Herod, and so we invited the Magi to stick around a bit longer, Beloved.
We’ll take down the tree later this week. Probably this weekend.
And we’ll slowly take off each ornament, inspecting it, standing in awe of it, telling one another stories about where we got it and how beautiful it is.
And then we’ll bless the house, pray a blessing on 2021, and tell each other how beautiful this new year is on the other side of yesterday. The wonder. The awe.
I want them to look at this world and see the possibility. The “good bones,” as Maggie Smith would say.
Because it has good bones…it just needs a bit more Epiphany.