January 6th marks the beginning of the Christian liturgical season of Epiphany. Epiphany literally means revelation, a time set aside to celebrate the two births of Jesus. These births are represented first by the presentation of Jesus, the Christ-child, to the Magi, and then later by John’s baptism of Jesus, which launched his public ministry. Epiphany is a time to be reminded that even in the midst of turmoil and danger, love breaks forth with a power that cannot be quelled by evil acts of Empire or the chaos of community. Epiphany reminds us that voices who cry out in the wilderness do not cry out in vain; that there remains a light in the darkness that compels us forward.
Epiphany is the revelation of hope embodied in One who came to live and serve among us so that we may be one. (John 17: 18-21)
How ironic it is that on this same date in 2021, our democracy was once again challenged by some who profess Christianity and yet fear the very coming together of diverse cultures and faiths across imposed geographical boundaries that our celebration of Epiphany represents. On the grounds of our Capitol, some citizens stormed the seat of our government, waving American and confederate and Nazi flags alongside “Christian” banners conflating God and government, in a failed attempt to thwart the peaceful transition of power for which our democracy is known.
Many watched in horror and disbelief as white vigilantes, spurred on by the inflammatory lies of our former president and the politicians, public figures and preachers who have chosen to follow him, stormed gates, scaled walls, built gallows, and ultimately caused the death of others. They believed they had just cause. That 19 states have passed 34 laws restricting voting rights, and impeding equal representation, reveals they are not alone.
Such efforts will always ultimately fail, not because God is on the side of one or the other, but, rather, because God is not the Government and the Government is not God. And there is still a light shining in the darkest of moments guiding us toward the pathway to love.
We must always remember the travesty of the violent insurrection that we witnessed during Epiphany last year. It was an attack on us all. As we mourn anew, let us do so with our hearts turned toward the revelatory light of Epiphany. Let us celebrate Epiphany knowing that, while many supported the insurrection, so many more did not. Let us do so remembering that although 19 states have enacted restrictive voting rights laws, 25 states have enacted 54 laws with provisions to expand voting access. Let us do so knowing that on January 6, 2022, tens of thousands of people from all walks a life gathered in more than 350 vigils all across the U.S. to remember and renew together.
Let us also know that our elected leaders can show moral courage by passing democracy protections for all of us: the Protecting Our Democracy Act provides historic reforms that will restore fundamental checks and balances and provide guardrails against future abuses of presidential power; the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act will establish national standards that protect voting rights, and will require federal review of any state law that attempts to discriminate against voters.
Let us celebrate Epiphany not made bitter, but better, by the challenge of so many who lost their way to love. Let us remember the words of poet Lucille Clifton in her poem, won’t you celebrate with me, that “everyday something has tried to kill me and failed.” This Epiphany, let us be reminded to look toward that light and choose rebirth and redemption — over and over again — and let us remember that redemption is possible when we live out love.
Let us learn from the tragedies of our past and move toward the light within each of us fueled by the everlasting power of love, knowing that love is the only thing that never dies. It is toward this light that we are called, and it is only in this light we are all warmed.