What is Epiphany, you may ask? Well, I didn't know myself until several years ago when a friend who is lay clergy at the Episcopal church downtown told me about their church's annual Epiphany service. I knew that the word "epiphany" means a sudden understanding of something, and I had heard that there was a holiday by the same name, but I didn't know what it was all about. For those of you who are from a church background which does not observe Epiphany, here's how it lays out. Remember everybody's "favorite" Christmas song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas"? The one nobody can remember all the words to? Well, it's not just a song! In many religious traditions, there actually are twelve days of Christmas, starting with December 25 and ending on January 5. The next day, January 6, is called Epiphany, and it is traditionally the celebration of the day the Kings from the East arrived to worship Jesus. Interesting that this tradition points out a fact that many Christians are not aware of: the Wise Men almost certainly did not arrive at the manger on the night of Jesus' birth. In fact, not only does the Bible say that the Wise Men arrived at a "house" to see a "child" (not a "stable" to see a "baby"), but it says that Herod, in an attempt to eliminate the new child who threatened his throne, executed male children aged two and younger "according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men." Judging from that evidence, it is possible that the Wise Men arrived as long as two years after Jesus' birth, and that Mary and Joseph had found more suitable lodging by then. The time between Christmas and Epiphany represents the time between Jesus' birth and the arrival of the visitors who had come so far to worship Him.
This Christmas season I did a great deal of thinking about how to make sure that Jesus is an actual part of the celebration, not just the statue in the middle of a scene like the one in the picture above. You can read some previous thoughts of mine here. Especially for children, there is so much emphasis on gifts that I started to wonder if there was a way that we could celebrate the festive season with gifts and trees and lights and eating and family and hustle and bustle, but also take some real time to think about the real Jesus. Then I hit on it: Epiphany! It's long enough after Christmas proper that there is some separation from the craziness, but it is close enough that there is still a connection. The manger is still fresh on our minds. Heck, they're still talking about it in my daughter's preschool class at church.
So I have something special planned for my family tonight. It's small, but hopefully it is going to be very special and personal, and hopefully it will help us all focus clearly, in ways that we comprehend at each of our own ages (which range from 4 to 41), on the amazing story that not only did Jesus Christ miraculously appear on Earth those many centuries ago, but He is present in the person of the Holy Spirit right this minute. Today.
What an epiphany that will be!
Want to find out how it turned out? Check here!