I am always a little sad on Epiphany. Suddenly, it seems as if I haven't had enough time to sit by my Christmas tree. The thought of packing away all my Christmas decorations seems overwhelming. Even though the putting away reveals a somewhat blessed emptiness (that will soon enough be re-filled) on mantle, piano, table tops - what seems left is the bleak midwinter.
Many years, I have not had time to put away my Christmas things on Epiphany anyway. I will turn out the Christmas lights after today, but I am often busy doing other things (the Christmas season in terms of "vacation" is long past). I have time to do it today, but I think I probably will not do it all. A little this morning (the holiday china is already packed and the linens are in the wash now) and a little more this afternoon, bit by bit. Not so that I will have time to lovingly examine each nativity, each ornament, each folk art Santa - I usually prefer to distance myself emotionally when I pack away these things, just get the job done efficiently. But so that I will have time to ease out of the season spiritually while easing into another.
What does Epiphany mean, anyway? The end of Christmas or the beginning of a new life in the light of the incarnation? It's a hinge between the two, and I want to stay in the middle a little longer, to look back on the sweetness of Christmas even as I begin to look forward to to realities of what living in the light of the incarnation will mean this year. We give our gifts at Christmas, and yet it feels as if Epiphany is the time to do that - to make contributions to the food bank, to bring our gifts to the child born in a barn under irregular circumstances.
I wish we had more time to ponder what the magi did after they packed their bags, mounted their camels, and rode away. Of course, we can make the time, I am trying to make the time. And so I will not abruptly pack Christmas all away. Not yet.
(Nativity: Clay, from Mexico)