I Can See Clearly
The Christian festival of Epiphany is on 6 January
by Brian Radcliffe (revised, originally published in 2011)
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To explore our openness to moments of revelation and wonder.
Preparation and materials
- Have available an image of a light bulb and the means to display it during the assembly. Alternatively, you could show an actual light bulb.
- Show the light bulb or the image of one.
Ask the students, ‘Do you ever have light-bulb moments?’
Explain that teachers have many light-bulb moments every day. It’s when they see the penny drop, everything click into place and understanding dawn. It can happen when solving a maths equation, performing a gymnastics routine, deciphering what a line in a poem means or translating a sentence from one language into another.
Light-bulb moments can also happen in relationships, when one person appreciates something about another for the first time, or when a disagreement is resolved.
- In the Christian Church, 6 January is celebrated as the feast of Epiphany. The word ‘epiphany’ actually means a light-bulb moment.
- Having enjoyed the Christmas story of God sending Jesus to be born as a human being, a person like each of us, Epiphany is the day for understanding the implications of this event. Using the story of the Magi – the wise men who came to see Jesus – Christians remind themselves of the symbolism that is attached to the gifts that the Magi brought: gold, frankincense and myrrh.
- Gold signifies that Jesus came as a person of power, a king, a ruler.
- Frankincense shows that Jesus came as a holy man, someone who was totally pure, with no wrong side to him.
- Myrrh indicates that Jesus would one day die a significant death.
- At Epiphany, Christians focus on what the coming of Jesus into the world really means. They want to make sure that the penny has dropped, that everything about their faith has clicked into place and that they understand Jesus’ personal relationship with them.
Time for reflection
Epiphanies, or light-bulb moments, often creep up on us unexpectedly. We may have been puzzling over something for hours, and then the answer hits us. We may wake up in the middle of the night because something in a dream has resonated with us. Alternatively, someone may say something that triggers a chain of thought in our minds that results in a moment of revelation, when it all makes sense. We can’t choose the moment when this happens, but we can create the right environment to encourage it to happen.
Such epiphanies are less likely to happen when we’re stressed, when we’re tormented by trying to find the answer to something or when we can’t focus on anything else. We may need to find some peace and quiet, perhaps by going for a walk or reading a book. Some people find that nothing calms them down better than having a shower or a relaxing bath. At other times, we find that it’s better to fill our minds with something totally different, perhaps by doing a sudoku or watching a favourite TV programme. Then, out of nowhere, revelation comes.
One of these tactics might work for us, but there may be others too. It might be a case of moving on to the next question in a test and returning later to what has been puzzling us. It could be that listening to music calms us, or merely closing our eyes and blanking our mind in meditation for a minute or two.
The Christian festival of Epiphany has a particular focus on revelation. It’s seen as an opportunity to remind ourselves of who Jesus was and is. It may start out with beliefs and ideas, but the epiphany comes when we realize that this person may have something to do with us personally. It’s a time to connect the historical character with the here and now.
This Epiphany, maybe we could all spend a few moments using some of the techniques that we’ve just discussed. Perhaps by focusing on the meanings of the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, we might realize something new.
Thank you for moments of epiphany, when things begin to make sense.
Thank you for the gift of Jesus, who can surprise us with his revelations.
May we develop openness to new and exciting ideas.
‘I can see clearly now’ by Johnny Nash, available at: https://youtu.be/g_rB4v75jqU (2.46 minutes long)