Are you asking, “What is Epiphany?” As the church, eons ago, selected December 25 to be the day to celebrate the birth of the Baby Jesus, January 6 was chosen to be the day we celebrate the Wise Men coming to worship the Christ Child. The scriptures relate Jesus was born in a stable, but, when the Wise Men arrived, they found “the child” in a “house!” Matthew 2:11. Therefore, a significant time had passed since the birth.
Within the past couple of years, I have had two epiphanies of what Epiphany means. I have always been puzzled by the gifts the Wise Men brought to baby Jesus — gold, frankincense and myrrh. After the Wise Men left the home of the Christ Child, an angel told Joseph to take Mary and the Child to Egypt as Herod intended to kill the Child. How could a poor, young carpenter afford to make such a trip? The gifts provided him with the means to support his family!
The second revelation is the significance of who the Wise Men were. God placed the unusual star in the sky piquing their interest in finding out what the star meant. Matthew 2:1-6 tells us the the Wise Men from the East followed the star to Jerusalem seeking the King of the Jews. They went to King Herod to ask about the King of Jews so they could worship him. Herod had to gather his chief priests and scribes to explain the meaning of this. They informed Herod of the prophecy that a ruler of Israel will come from Bethlehem. The Wise Men were not Jews. They were Gentiles! This is the first time God revealed himself as God of the Gentiles as well as of the Jews.
The idea of there being 12 days of Christmas is based on the number of days between Christmas and Epiphany.
I am a celebrator! I don’t think I had heard about Epiphany as a day to celebrate the Wise Men until I was an adult. Being a Christmas lover of all things Christmas, I had to add Epiphany to our litany of joy.
On December 26, my children removed the Wise Men and camels from the manger scene, placing them at the farthest point in the house away from the manger. Each day, the two of them took turns moving the caravan closer to the manger scene until they finally arrived on Epiphany.
On January 6, we often invited another family to join us for our Epiphany dinner where each person found “the last gift of Christmas” at their place setting. It was never an “I want” type of gift. It was an “I need” gift or something related to spiritual growth as a Christian book or tape. (That was in the day of cassette tapes!) One year, it was a white elephant type of gift. I remember that year, because I gave the husband of the couple invited, a solid glass ball given to me, which I thought was a pretty but dumb thing. He was ecstatic with it!
Following dinner, we read all of our Christmas cards (and there were many back in the day) and voted on our favorites based upon pre-established criteria. We quickly created three piles: losers, nice, and potential winners. From the potential winners, we selected a first place, second place, and third place winners. The kids and I created certificates on our Apple IIe declaring the wins and a handmade ornament as prizes which we mailed to the winning families. As years went by, some of our previous winners told us they specifically chose a beautiful and meaningful card to win our contest again.
Now that there are no kids with me on Epiphany, I celebrate by inviting friends or local family to join me. My Epiphany grace is, “Father of light, we are grateful for this day when you revealed yourself as God of the Gentiles. I am grateful for these friends gathered at my table. Help us to follow your light and bring your goodness to everyone we meet. We ask your blessing upon this food that we may be nourished to serve you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” Guests at my table still receive “the last gift of Christmas.”
How do you celebrate Epiphany?