As we enter a new year, I am always captured by the theme of Epiphany. An epiphany (from the ancient Greek meaning manifestation or striking appearance) is an experience of sudden and profound realization. Generally the term is used to describe scientific breakthrough, religious or philosophical discoveries, but it can apply in any situation in which an enlightening realization allows a problem or situation to be understood from a new and deeper perspective. Epiphanies happen unexpectedly but generally follow a process of significant thought about a problem. Often they are triggered by a new and key piece of information, but importantly, a depth of prior knowledge is required to allow the leap of understanding.
The journey the Magi, the Wise Men, the Kings from the East, took to find the Christ Child was the result of study of the stars, reading the writings and ponderings of others, and preparation for a long journey to an unknown place where they really were not sure what they would find. Our search for the presence of Christ in our lives is always a journey inwardly and sometimes outwardly. But our awareness, our startling moment of conviction of God with Us, Emmanuel, comes about because we have thought about God and Jesus and Spirit, have read scripture, and talked to others and reflected on our own experiences. Then suddenly comes a moment when we realize that we are not alone, that we don’t need to depend on our own sometimes meager personal resources, but that a loving God, compassionate Redeemer, and guiding Spirit are manifest in our lives in unexpected ways.
The next General Synod, the biennial national meeting of the United Church of Christ, is centered upon the theme of “Unexpected Places.” It will take place in Cleveland, Ohio, home of the UCC national offices. During this year of 2015, I hope that the hard work, loving thought, and creative reflection you all have been doing over the past year or two will create moments of epiphany for our life together as the Southeast Conference and for each of our congregations and for the world we are called to love and serve. May blessings abound for each of you in this new year.