Twelfth Night: Nearing Journey’s End

It’s Twelfth Night, and the Wise Men are almost at the stable.

 Almost, but not quite. The journey isn’t quite over. There’s a sense that they’re nearing their destination, the star looms large over Bethlehem. They’ve taken wrong turns, failing to find a new king in a palace, finding the old king’s paranoia instead. Their expectations are being re-written on the fly, and you can almost sense their anticipation as they move closer, closer to the City of David, manoeuvring their way through dark narrow streets illuminated by star light.

We tend to focus on their arrived, on them kneeling before the manger and presenting the baby with gold and frankincense and myrrh. It’s a scene heavy with symbolism, and we may see new meaning birthed from it if we keep our eyes open.

But that’s for tomorrow. That’s for Epiphany. Tonight is Twelfth Night, and the journey isn’t quite over.

Instead, let’s think about what it means to near the end of a journey, a season, a quest. Today’s the day the lights come down and we pack away the baubles. Christmas is over; the wrapping paper is getting recycled, we’re back at work as if we’d never been away. A season ends today, but the stable door hasn’t yet been opened. We stand at a threshold, hand raise to knock at the door but paused by apprehension: what happens next? what will the next moments bring, how will things be transformed as the door creaks slowly open?

Maybe we celebrate our New Year five days too early. After all, we’re not formed by fireworks; we’re formed by the beginning and the ending of seasons, and how we hunt for the divine in the midst of them.

We stand at the threshold and we have two choices, almost: to return to our routines, to breathe a sigh of relief as our lives get back on track, or to  embrace the next steps, to see what’s over the next hill, through the next doorway. The Wise Men could have partied at the palace, but they had a star to follow and a baby to meet. Comfort vs Change. You stand at the threshold, but it’s not too late to turn back, right?

And hey, it’s okay to mourn the end of a journey; it’s okay to regret the mistakes and the wrong turns, it’s okay to be angry at those who sent you down dangerous paths, who tried to derail your quest with words and swords. Change is a passing of sorts, and we need to lean into that, but we can’t live there forever, A destination, be it joyous or sad, always leads to a new journey eventually.

So be prepared; for change, for opportunity, for revelation. Grieve the season that’s ending, steel yourself for the season that is to come. Keep your eyes and ears open, because the descendants of Herod will try to trick you; be brave and speak out your dreams, because they might just save someone’s life, even if right now they’re just muddled visions in the dark of the night. Rest as one quest nears its end; pause, and then start planning the quests to come. Approach the stable, gifts in hand, knock on the door and wait for it to open. What lies beyond it may be familiar, but it may also be strange and new, an epiphany. We don’t know yet.

Because tonight is Twelfth Night, and the journey isn’t quite over.

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