If the Christmas season (or, more accurately, the run-up to and including Christmas day) is the “most wonderful time of the year,” Epiphany is, to borrow from another seasonal song, “the bleak midwinter.” Gone are the shiny light displays, the festive decorations, and the holiday treats that were everywhere just weeks before. Instead, there is a blank space in the living room where the Christmas tree once stood, a naked mantle that before had stockings hung with care, and an expanding belly where our waist had previously been.
According to a formula developed by a researcher and psychologist at Cardiff University in Wales, today (January 6) is the “unhappiest day of the year” taking debt, weather, failed new year’s resolutions, and a general lack of motivation into account. In the United Kingdom, the day has been dubbed “Blue Monday,” and has been adopted by a travel company to encourage Brits to escape the doldrums by flying someplace that isn’t perpetually dank.
As fate would have it, today is also Epiphany – the actual end of the Christmas season, where Western Christians remember the visitation of the Magi to see the young (but not newborn) Christ child. Alas, most Christians don’t actually get to this 12th day of Christmas to celebrate this. Instead, we slap three kings into our nativity scenes, celebrate the whole shooting match on one glorious day, and have the entire set put away by the time the new year is introduced. (Not to cast aspersions on that old chestnut of a tune, but they weren’t actually “kings,” the Bible doesn’t indicate how many there were, and modern audiences aren’t likely to consider Persia or Yemen as the “Orient.” Other that that, though, great song.)
I submit, however, that there is reason to continue our celebration through the full season of Epiphany. By doing so, we are reminded not only of God’s coming in human form at the Incarnation, but also of His continuing presence, even in the dark days of January and beyond, and our call to take that news and share it with others.