I have a confession to make. I went to Wheaton College, and I spent 3 of my 4 years assiduously skipping chapel. I am heartily ashamed of this now. At the time, of course, it seemed like I always had more important things to do, which strikes me as terribly ridiculous now. It may also have something to do with the fact that my first “chapel buddy” (the guy in the assigned seat next to me) spent half of my freshman year trying to get me to go on a date with him and kept mysteriously popping up wherever I happened to be on campus. I got sort of spooked by the assigned-chapel-seating thing.
Whatever the case, when I download the current chapel talks from iTunes and listen to them now, it’s always with an element of shame and regret. I mean, these are some fantastic speakers – and I was required to go listen to them! Time was carved out three times a week especially for me to hear them!
The point of all this self-flagellation, though, is to share with you one of my favorite chapel series from the past few years. Haley actually told me about it, and it started my own rediscovery of Wheaton’s chapel talks. Last January, Lauren Winner gave a series of talks about Epiphany (available, for free, here or on iTunes), and I’ve been listening to them again as the season approaches on Friday (January 6). I heartily encourage you to download all 3 – they’re short – and make a little time to listen to them in full.
In a nutshell, the point of her talks is to sell us on the season of Epiphany. Even in liturgical traditions, it’s a season that usually takes a backseat; in non-liturgical churches (i.e., most evangelical churches), it goes virtually unobserved. An unfortunate fact, since Epiphany is a thoroughly evangelical, or gospel-bearing, season.
What is Epiphany? The word comes from the Greek for “appearance,” or “manifestation.” The Epiphany of Our Lord is his manifestation to the Gentiles (represented by the three Magi). Their gifts to him reveal that he is a king (gold); he is the true meeting-place or tabernacle of God (frankincense); and he is born to die (myrrh). It’s the season in which we discover who Jesus really is; we give great thanks that this child makes God known (Jn 1:18); and we attend to our calling to point others to the God who is present in Jesus. How evangelical is that?
After making a big deal of marking Advent and celebrating the full twelve days of Christmas this year, I’m trying to not let our family get too caught up in the back-to-January rush and to observe Epiphany. (Unfortunately, in our case, this means contending against a perpetually hungry baby, the beginning of full-day preschool, and an impending short term move to California. Your prayers for sanity are always welcome.) So far, it’s been pretty simple: lighting candles, re-telling the story of the Magi, and singing “This Little Light of Mine” at bedtime. Over at This Classical Life, Kristen Stewart has a lovely Epiphany house blessing that I have bookmarked for when the kids are a bit older. You should definitely check it out.
So, although my chapel attendance record (and heck, my parenting record, and my general attempt-at-holy-living record) is definitely spotty, and January in Minnesota makes it feel like the dark is really winning (sunset today: 4:48 pm! windchill tomorrow: -20!), the reality is that “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” Happy Epiphany!