Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
And before you say that I am late on my “Merry Christmas” I must tell you that Christmas happens twice each year. Protestants and Catholics celebrate on December 25 and the Orthodox stream of Christianity celebrates Christmas on January 6, which is Epiphany. So, Merry Christmas one more time!
And that brings me to the subject of Epiphany. It is a Christian holy day (holiday) that actually predates Christmas. With a capital “E” the word refers to this holy day but with a small “e” it mean “the appearance or manifestation, usually of a deity” or “a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.” (These are the 2nd and 3rd definitions given on www.dictionary.com.)
Epiphany, the holy day, is the least celebrated of the holy days (Easter, Pentecost, Christmas, Ash Wednesday and Epiphany). Only when it falls on a Sunday is it taken seriously by some Protestant denominations. (I would venture to say that Catholics and especially Orthodox give it more respect.) The Protestant denominations that follow the church calendar, roughly Advent (4 weeks), Christmas (12 days), Epiphany (5 to 9 weeks), Lent (6 weeks), Easter (7 weeks), and Pentecost (all the rest of the year), usually skip the actual day of Epiphany and jump from the first or second Sunday after Christmas to the Baptism of Jesus Sunday, the first after Epiphany.
On Epiphany, the church celebrates the manifestation of God to humanity in his son, Jesus. In Luke 2, Jesus as a Jewish baby is presented to God and the Jewish faith at the Temple. In Matthew 2, the rest of the world, represented by the Magi from the east, recognizes the new king in their visit to Bethlehem. This story is the primary celebration of Epiphany for all three strains of Christianity. The Orthodox Churches also celebrates the birth of Jesus, his naming (Luke 2:21), his presentation at the temple (Luke 2:22-38), his childhood (Luke 2:41-52) and his Baptism in the River Jordan (Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22). It is at the Baptism that the Spirit of God comes upon Jesus and the voice of God declares him to be the beloved Son.
How has God been made manifest (defined as “readily perceived by the eye or the understanding; evident; obvious; apparent; plain”) in you and in our churches? When did you have that “sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning” of God’s love for you and his offer of salvation through Jesus Christ? When did you awake to the idea or feeling that life truly has meaning when it is lived in Christ? How have you made Christ manifest to others? What have our churches done that people can look at us and declare that Christ lives in us?
May Christ be manifest in all of us in 2012!