One of my favorite quotes for this time of year (well, for any time of the year really) comes from Cookie Monster.
“Today me will live in the moment — unless it is unpleasant. In which case, me will eat a cookie.”
This Saturday, January 6, Epiphany, traditionally marks the day the Magi from the East found the infant king, Jesus. Epiphany means “a showing forth, a revealing.” The word itself is not in the Bible anywhere, but has been attached to the events surrounding the revelation of Jesus as a manifestation of God in the world — as infant in Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels, in baptism with Mark’s and as Logos in John’s. It’s been in use in the liturgy of the Church since the 4th century. It literally means, “to come suddenly into view,” as in “Poets cannot walk in their back yard without tripping on an epiphany” or “I wasn’t sure what to do next, then I had an epiphany.” Which is why I think of Cookie Monster at this time of year. And I’ll get to that.
There are many Epiphany traditions around the world including Epiphany singing, chalking the door, having one’s house blessed, consuming Three Kings Cake, winter swimming, as well as attending church services. For some Christian cultures, Christmas decorations are not removed until Epiphany Eve (Twelfth Night), while other Christian countries historically remove them on Candlemas, the conclusion of Epiphanytide (that gives some of you until February 2!).
Last year, in the aftermath of both Linda’s and my mothers’ deaths during the first two weeks of January, our decorations remained in place well into early February. I had thought to start a new tradition and keep them up until Valentine’s Day! And this year I expect to see a curious mash-up of religious traditions and practices as Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day and Easter falls on April Fools!
But I digress.
This time of year is always a mix of blessing and difficulty for a lot of folks. For some it is a time to reflect on the joys and successes and happy moments of the previous year. For others, it is a time of remembering loss and the experience of loneliness. For some it is an occasion of marking new goals and opportunities for the coming year. For others, it is a reminder of perhaps another year of “more of the same” — the same challenges, the same pain, the same sorrow.
For me life isn’t so much a box of chocolates as it is a box of mixed jelly beans. You know, it has the color key on the back so that you can tell which ones you might want to avoid. But the print is so small and the colors can look pretty similar, and just when you thought you were getting liquorice you bit into black pepper. Or instead of pink candy, it was earwax! And of course, the flavors can be even more devastatingly distasteful. That’s life. That’s why I like Epiphany and why I think of Cookie Monster.
To live life with intention and deeply authentically is to face it squarely, bravely, and with eyes ready for an epiphany. To say “YES!” to life and expect a wonder along the way. If we learn anything from this season, from the story of the Wise Men, surely it can be that we live in the midst of God’s loving presence and to live intentionally is to open to that presence every day, in every moment. And when they’re unpleasant . . . to eat a cookie. I know, that can be easier said than done.
Which is why I hope you’ll join us on Sundays this Epiphany season, starting January 7 as we explore Living on Purpose — Six Practices for Life.
This Sunday, January 7
with a guest horn section and special music from Dace Sultanov, Brad Thompson and the eleven:eleven revolution.
I hope you can join us for an inspiring morning. It’ll be good to see each other again after two weeks off!