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Martin: Epiphany

(Host) In France, the Feast of the Epiphany celebrates the arrival of the magi and the discovery of Jesus. French teacher and commentator Mike Martin has been reflecting on this quieter holiday - and also wondering what Jesus might think if he were around today.

(Martin) On January 6th in France, after the crush of Christmas dies down, many families still celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. After dinner, the French serve some sparkling cider or champagne and eat the traditional galette des rois, or king cake, in honor of the magi who came to visit Jesus after his birth. Each galette has a fegrave;ve, a small porcelain or plastic trinket hidden inside, and whoever gets the slice with the little doodad is king or queen for the day. This game is a fun way to mark the Epiphany, but the cake is delicious, too: all puff pastry and frangipani filling. In fact, sometimes I almost prefer the quiet, warm glow of these celebrations to the glitz and grandeur of Christmas. I like Epiphany because it's a celebration of discovery, namely that of Jesus coming into the world, and also because it gives you time to think. For example, what would Jesus think of the way we live in 2013?

Well, to start, we know from the Gospel that Jesus liked to celebrate. Of course for Catholics, breaking the bread and sharing the wine is at the core of nearly every religious observance; but aside from the idea of sacrifice, there is also the importance of brotherhood. That's why Jesus fed the multitudes with a few loaves and fish, and that's also why he changed water to really good wine at the wedding at Cana. So was Jesus a foodie? It's hard to say, but we know that he was definitely against hunger and for sharing. Maybe if he were around today, he wouldn't be handing out food stamps, but he'd at least be making meals for the homeless and hungry - and he probably wouldn't ask for a plaque or braggy t-shirt either. After all, he told his followers to not blow a trumpet when giving alms, but rather to do so quietly, modestly.

It's not clear what he'd think of what we now call entitlement programs, but I like to think he'd probably support universal health care. Aside from his food miracles, Jesus is said to have spent a lot of time healing people - lepers, epileptics, the blind, the paralyzed, people with dropsy - he accepted pretty much any preexisting condition you can think of.

And Jesus was also a great teacher. He told powerful parables, challenged many accepted ways of thinking, and asked really good essential questions - all for free! So I wonder what he'd think of our fancy college campuses and prohibitive tuitions nowadays. I like the story of when he went berserk on the moneylenders in the temple; and I can totally imagine him busting up some college bookstore, tipping over racks of $100 sweatshirts and maybe yelling something about how commerce had turned a place of learning into a den of thieves.

Now that I think about it, maybe it's just as well that Jesus isn't around to see 2013. Still, I like the Feast of the Epiphany. It gives you time to think.

Mike Martin is the Director of Learning for South Burlington School District and a Senior Associate with the Rowland Foundation.
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