I always felt a little bit sorry for the liturgical season of Epiphany. Sandwiched between its higher status siblings Christmas and Lent, Epiphany sometimes feels like the middle child of liturgical seasons. The best we can offer are some mobile wise men in the weeks leading up to your one big Sunday, but please remember that’s *technically* Christmas territory.
But for me, in this season of my life, Epiphany means so much more than Christmas or Lent. Our family will welcome its fifth member this Epiphany and this idea of Christ both being revealed to the world and the world not yet being of Christ speaks to me. We are in the season of the already, but not yet. Those wise men figurines have made their way from our dining room buffet to the nativity scene on our mantle, but their journey is not yet complete. Christ has entered the world and, in the seasons ahead will grow into a curious and precocious boy in the Temple, embarrassed young adult at a wedding reception (“Mom, could you not right now?!”), teacher, healer, and ultimately Messiah. But for now, our baby Jesus lays in his tiny, ceramic manger. No one on our mantle knows the journey ahead or the way that God has already transformed the world.
In a similar way, I can point to some “already” things about our son who is due in just a few weeks. I have felt him leap in my womb, watched his small body roll across my belly, and even experienced his hiccups. The nausea of the first trimester made way for a blissful burst of energy in the second, only to be replaced with sheer exhaustion and incredible heartburn in the third. My belly has expanded, my pants no longer fit, and ultrasound technicians have methodically detailed our son’s growth. Perhaps the most touching “already” moments have been watching our two older daughters become loving big sisters.
Our doula recently gifted each girl their own wrap that can be used to alleviate pressure for mommas in labor, or repurposed as a baby carrier. Our daughters take great pride in carefully wrapping their baby dolls in its soft layers and walking around the house, gently rocking and bouncing to soothe their apparently fussy babies. They have sung, read, and hugged their baby brother who rests in my ever-expanding belly.
But! Our son is not here. Not yet. I have not had the experience of holding, rocking, nursing, or simply marveling at our newborn baby. That intoxicating new baby smell has yet to hit my nostrils and I have not yet experienced the transition from a family of four to a family of five. I have never raised a son. And, just like those peaceful figurines all surrounding the newborn Christ on my mantle, I have no idea what God has in store for his future.
Coming into this world of already and not yet, I know he will meet pain, triumph, sorrow, joy, loss, and healing. And this is the journey that all of us take as parents, caregivers, or Christian educators. We have glimmers of the world as it should be — moments where our children embody grace, love, and equity. And yet we also have to prepare them for a world that is all too often violent, hateful, and unjust. We all live in a loop of missing the mark, asking for forgiveness, and trying over each day.
So, while I can’t possibly tell you exactly what will happen in the weeks ahead, or when our son will arrive, I can tell you that he is already incredibly loved. He is loved by family and friends, but he is also loved by a God who continues to reveal himself in the world, continues to move the Church and her people through the Holy Spirit, continues to accompany us in this journey through the already, but not yet.
Thanks be to God.