By Sharon Wilson


“Gift” by Asenat29, 2006. Via Flickr. All rights reserved.

In my husband’s family, we celebrate “Little” Christmas. I have no idea if this is a wider tradition than the Wisconsin Wilson family, but it mostly consists of an opportunity to give a small gift to loved ones.

“Little” Christmas lands on the Feast of the Epiphany—traditionally January 6 though celebrated liturgically last Sunday.

From my vantage point, I think it is a tradition made up by my mother–in-law so that she could give the gifts that she had forgotten to give on Christmas Day. These gifts were most likely purchased in July and hidden under the bed until Christmas. But in the bustle of wrapping a multitude of gifts, they were missed.

The Feast of the Epiphany is the celebration of the Magi reaching Christ in the manger.

And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.

—Matthew 2:9-11

The word epiphany is also used when we have an experience of sudden realization. Realizations, like Isaac Newton’s “discovery” of gravity by the falling of an apple, are characterized as an epiphany. We hear these words used so differently—epiphany as a realization and Epiphany as the celebration of the Magi—we sometimes forget that they are related.

Psychologists have studied the process of innovation, and despite the idea that an epiphany comes “out of the blue,” they have found that epiphanies are generally followed by a process of significant thought about a problem. Often, they are triggered by a new piece of information, but a depth of prior knowledge and effort is required to allow the leap of understanding.

Applying this to my spiritual life, I think about all of the epiphanies I would like to have infused into my brain. Some mysteries of the Catholic faith are harder for me to understand, and though I accept them on faith, I long to have a clearer understanding of the mysteries of the Trinity or the Eucharist. I have had a few “eureka” moments, but like the Magi, who sought long and hard to find Christ, I need to put the effort into it.

The Feast of Epiphany is a time for me to reflect and recommit to the life-long study of our faith and maybe, like the long forgotten gift under the bed, an epiphany will come as a welcome gift to be shared with others.

Today, pick an aspect from our faith to study. Or recommit to Bible study or prayer time. Like the Magi, we should search long and hard for Christ every day. We just may find that the gift we seek was under the bed the whole time!