“At last, my love has come along. My lonely days are over and life is like a song.” Etta James’ song “At Last” makes appearances at many a wedding. During the season of Carnival, I feel it takes on a whole new meaning. Carnival, in the Catholic tradition, is the season between Christmas and Lent. Around the World, in places like Rio, the Caribbean, France and New Orleans, Carnival is a big deal! Starting on Epiphany and ending on Mardi Gras, King Cakes, parades, beads and pretty costumes make appearances. Epiphany is always on January 6th. In the Bible, it is the day the Wise Men meet Jesus. It’s the Manifestation of the Christ. According to Merriam-Webster, an epiphany is 1) an appearance or manifestation of a divine being, 2) a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something. The most common image of an epiphany is the light bulb over the head suddenly being turned on. I feel this is very apt for this season celebrating the Light of God.
All of a sudden, there was this baby. This innocent baby was the representation of every hope every Jew in 1st Century Israel had. They just didn’t know it yet. Let’s all just take a minute and think about that……. Ok. Ready? God decided in all his infinite wisdom to be born of a virgin girl in a manger. I’ve heard of being born in a car along a freeway, in a hospital, or even a bath tub at home, but in a barn? To be laid in a gross dirty feed trough? I’ve never claimed to understand the inner workings of God, but that is insane. No one knows for sure when these Wise dudes came to visit. We aren’t even sure if it was three or ten. We claim three for the gifts they brought. We aren’t sure if wasn’t even only men. There might have been women there. These Wise men (or women) brought gifts, gifts for a king, not the son of a simple carpenter’s wife.
Carnival comes to end on Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. Mardi Gras, the day before Ash Wednesday, is one of the biggest parties. The week leading up to it is full of parades and King Cake, a delicious concoction of cinnamon, sugar, and icing with a miniature baby shoved inside. You find the baby, you host the next party or buy the next cake. There is a curfew of 12 am that night. The next morning is the start of Lent, Ash Wednesday. Everyone in New Orleans, regardless of religion, walks around with ashes in the form of the cross on their forehead.
Lent, following Ash Wednesday, is symbolic of Jesus’ own fasting in the desert. 40 days later, Easter rolls around and we are reminded of Jesus and God’s love for us. But none of it would have mattered if not for a virgin mother, and a few Wise dudes (or dudettes) coming to proclaim the Manifestation of the Jewish God. The season of Carnival is a love song for Jesus. “At last, my love as come along. My lonely days are over and life is like a song.” Etta had it right. Our Love has come, in the form of a babe, that will grow, die and live again for us.
Love and Blessings,