Epiphany aha: the Divine crumb trail
January 3, 2024
Albert Einstein, one of the world’s great minds and responsible for some of the most significant scientific breakthroughs, is often quoted as saying, “I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking.” To Einstein, our observable world held secrets and mysteries into breakthroughs in science, medicine, and technology, perhaps requiring more observation and less mental strain.
In January, Christians all over the globe celebrate the season of Epiphany. We commonly use the word “epiphany” to describe a revelation or an “aha” moment. The word “epiphany” has Greek origins, and it originally meant “appearance” or “manifestation.” The coming of Jesus born into the world was first revealed to the shepherds, who heard the angelic announcement and ran to the stable to see for themselves. The date of the Epiphany is celebrated on January 6 in many Western Christian traditions. In some Eastern Christian traditions, it is associated with the celebration of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River. The Epiphany marks the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of the liturgical season known as Ordinary Time.
The theological significance of the Epiphany lies in the recognition of Jesus as the Savior and Light of the world, not only for the Jews but for all nations. The Magi, guided by a star, traveled from the East to find the newborn Jesus and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
In the story of the Epiphany, Jesus was revealed to the Gentile world through the magi or wise men observing a star and following it to Bethlehem, where Jesus was found. The Epiphany is the revelation of God’s salvation to these magi, Gentiles, who were not historically considered to be included with Israel.
In January, Christians all over the globe celebrate the season of Epiphany. We commonly use the word “epiphany” to describe a revelation or an “aha” moment. The scriptures and the season of Epiphany explore the ways God surprises us when we open ourselves to new experiences, adventures, and opportunities God places before us. When we, like the magi, decide to follow God into unknown territory, we discover grace, forgiveness, love, compassion, spiritual insight, and even learn new things about ourselves and God.
Einstein may have been on to something about discoveries because the magi discovered the star or cosmic event, which was set into motion by God. God inaugurated the event, and the magi participated. They did not cause or make the epiphany happen. The magi discovered the Divine crumb trail. Richard Rohr describes the spiritual reality of God’s epiphanies:
An epiphany is a parting of the veil, a life-changing manifestation of meaning, the eureka of awareness of self and the Other. It is the radical grace which we cannot manufacture or orchestrate. There are no formulas which ensure its appearance. It is always a gift, unearned, unexpected, and larger than our present life. We cannot manufacture epiphanies. We can only ask for them, wait for them, expect them, know they are given, keep out of the way, and thank Someone afterward.
The magi stumbled on this “aha” moment where God pulled back the veil of heaven and let the wise men into a divine secret: Christ has come, and Christ has come for you!
The scriptures and the season of Epiphany explore the ways God surprises us when we open ourselves to new experiences, adventures, and opportunities God places before us. When we, like the magi, decide to follow God into unknown territory, we discover grace, forgiveness, love, compassion, spiritual insight, and even learn new things about ourselves and God.
When we allow ourselves to be led by faith, we experience that “aha!” moment when we start following God. We follow God as the Holy One leaves behind a divine crumb trail on the path of life.
The Rev. Dr. Alan Rudnick, Th.D. is an author and Senior Minister at DeWitt Community Church, DeWitt, NY., He is a former member of the board of directors for American Baptist Home Mission Societies, board of General Ministries and Mission Council of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.