One of the beautiful things about the Christian calendar is its linear nature. Yes, it is cyclical, but it is cyclical in the sense that it is spiraling toward a glorious end. The nature of Advent attests to this; it is not a beginning, but rather a renewal of waiting. I find it interesting that we renew each Christian year with anticipation. Thus at the beginning of Advent, we begin to wait. At Christmastide, we commemorate the birth of Him for Whom we are waiting, a wonderful celebration lasting twelve days. The end of Christmastide is marked by Epiphany.
Epiphany: the Christ is finally revealed to the Gentiles. Of course, He was revealed to the Jews first. Simeon and Anna were quick to recognize His true identity. However, as a Gentile, I find Epiphany particularly resonant, as it brings with it many contrasting elements. The Magi, non-Jewish scholars who desire to worship the Christ, contrast starkly with King Herod, the ruler of the Jews, who desires to kill the Christ. The revelation of the Prince of Peace to non-Jews ushers in a slaughtering of infant Jewish sons. Epiphany reveals God, created in and among His own creation, to be brutally slain by those He created. And after that brutal slaying, the crushing darkness of death is forever shattered by the light of resurrection.
Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!
Images: Adoration of the Magi, by Bartolomé Estéban Murillo (1618-1682) and Massacre of the Innocents, by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)