Saturday, January 5, 2013
To understand, let me back up a bit. First of all, there's Advent. That's the time counting back the four Sundays before Christmas. (Personally, I love Advent.) This is the time we remember the waiting for the promised Messiah, the one foretold in prophecy. It is the time of preparation for Christmas, the weeks of hope, peace, joy, and love. Then there's Christmas, when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. MOST people, even those without faith, celebrate Christmas, even when they ignore the meaning.
"On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...." Just a song? 12 days of Christmas? What's THAT all about anyway? When you look at the calendar, you notice that there are 12 days between Christmas and January 6.... you guessed it, the 12 days of Christmas. Some celebrate the 12th Night with celebration and parties. This brings us to Epiphany. Traditionally, this celebrates the arrival of the Wise Men, the Magi, when they visited Jesus. Most historians agree that this took a while, and that Jesus was a toddler by then. In some countries, Epiphany is celebrated more than Christmas, and the children get gifts, just as the Wise Men brought gifts. They believe that the Wise Men bring them, not Santa Claus. It's often called "Three Kings Day."
Looking at the word, many use the word Epiphany to mean a newfound awareness, or an "ah-ha!" moment, when something suddenly becomes clear. If you think about it, the arrival of the Wise Men, after their journey to find Jesus, was definitely an Epiphany. It suddenly became clear that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, the Savior they were waiting for!
They brought gifts, such as gold, that you'd bring an earthly King. They also brought frankincense, used for temple worship, a gift for the Son of God. And finally, they brought myrrh, which was used for healing and embalming, remembering His ministry and time on the cross. What an Epiphany this is! This IS most certainly, the promised Messiah, the Son of God, our Savior.
While many hurried and got their Christmas things put away, some by New Years, and some the days that followed, mine remains up until Epiphany, until Christmas is finally really over. Is it my love of the Kings? Not really, In my case, it's a convenient excuse... a deadline extension that allows me to celebrate Christmas just a little bit longer. But I love the holiday anyway. There are Wise Men on my Christmas tree. While they weren't present at the Nativity, they were soon on their way, and are an important part of the story.
Early Christians celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany before they celebrated Christmas. In another post, I'll share another connection Epiphany has.... you just might be surprised.