I thought I’d write a post today in observance of Epiphany, a holiday not featured on most wall calendars, nor in Google or iCal. But since my last post was way back in May, when it was probably warm and sunny and flowers were in bloom and grass was green and the sky was blue, I considered titling this post “Hello World,” which if you’re familiar with WordPress (the blogging software I use) is the default post of a new blog site. Well, maybe not Hello World! but at least Hello Everyone Who Has Missed My Posts — all three of you, including my mother, my twin sister, and probably some internet gawker I don’t know personally.
As I mentioned, today marks Epiphany, a holy day on the Church calendar most Protestants are unfamiliar with. Until about three years ago or so, I wasn’t aware of most days on the Church calendar, save Christmas and Easter. I’ll share more in a future post — probably seven months from now — about my recent experience with the Church calendar and lectionaries and all kinds of things that cause anxiety among most Evangelicals — if that’s what I am.
Christians for hundreds of years have observed Epiphany, which technically occurs twelve days after Christmas. Some think the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” originated in the observance of Epiphany — though, Epiphany has little to do with three French hens, two turtle doves, and/or a partridge in a pear tree. Epiphany comes from the Greek word meaning “manifestation or appearance,” or “to show or reveal.” In Church history it is closely associated with the visit of the Magi, which was an early indication in the Gospel narrative that “Jesus came for all people, of all nations, of all races, and that the work of God in the world would not be limited to only a few.” Epiphany moves beyond the sentimental trappings of Christmas that we often feel in our day, bringing with it a vision of God’s glory to the nations of the world.
That last paragraph is what I’ll be sharing this Sunday morning, as we observe (sort of) Epiphany a couple days late. We’ll be like the fourth king who didn’t make it into the song because he got held up somewhere in Persia. (Actually, as many of you might be aware, we don’t know whether there were only three wisemen, though we do know they were likely not kings but sages. We often think of the Magi numbering three due to the three gifts they brought — gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It very well could have been a gang of sages who’d all pitched in for the three gifts.)
In any case, I’m thrilled to have moved past Christmas. I do like Christmas. Though I tire of the music. Last night at rehearsal, I could have sworn I heard an orchestra chime coming from our keyboardist! I do like Christmas; I do. I love it only slightly less than Easter. Both holidays figure largely into the Gospel story we are supposed to be telling. However, I think the Christmas season is too long. Certainly I wouldn’t be the first person to remark on the commercialism, but I’m not even addressing that here. What I mean is that most Christians are familiar with Christmas — maybe not all the details, some of which are extremely important — but very few understand Advent. Christmas for many is a looking back at Jesus as a helpless infant. And we do need to understand how Christ humbled himself thusly. However, Advent is really an anticipation of Jesus’ second appearance, which Paul tells us we should be looking forward to. We are to “love his appearing” (see 2 Timothy 4:8).
Where Advent comprises some four weeks of the Church calendar, Christmas occupies only twelve days. Yet we decorate for Christmas and give little attention to Advent. I wouldn’t mind shortening the season.
Well, here we now at Epiphany. Anyone who isn’t Jewish by blood and who loves Jesus should exult in Epiphany.
Rejoice! Rejoice. Emmanuel has come to Thee, O … not only Israel!
Not two weeks after we celebrate and remember the birth of the Savior are we reminded that he came not only for God’s chosen people but all people everywhere. We who were excluded from the people of God are granted full citizenship in Christ. We were far away from God but we’ve been brought near through the blood of our Savior. We celebrate these truths today on Epiphany.
Further, we are reminded to be sharing this message with others, as certainly the Magi did on their way home. At some point this year, I’ll write about a mission trip possibility this summer. I can’t wait to tell you! In the meantime, rejoice and retell. Celebrate and communicate.
Happy Epiphany to you all!