January 2021 – As we close the curtain on the Christmas season and all of the decorations and lights go back into the boxes for another year, let us not forget the awesome power of the season and what it continues to mean to us. Jesus has come into the world for the salvation of all people! Praise be to God! Though the world around us may seem bleak and colorless in comparison to the flash and fancy of the Christmas season passed, we still have reason for joy and celebration. The season of Epiphany is at hand! Epiphany (the original Greek means “appearance” or “manifestation”) is a Christian feast intended to celebrate the “shining forth” or revelation of God to the world in human form in the person of Jesus. The feast is also called Twelfth Day, as it is the twelfth day after Christmas (yes, that is where we get that song from), or Three Kings Day.
January 6 marks the beginning of the season of Epiphany for Christians. When I was a kid my mother used to leave our Christmas decorations up until January 6 saying that that was “old Christmas”. It took me thirty years and a seminary degree to figure out what she meant. In parts of the early church (especially in the Eastern traditions) Epiphany was the feast day that celebrated the birth of Jesus and the visit of the Magi (wise men). The season focused on the baptism of Jesus and culminated with the miracle of Jesus changing water to wine at the wedding in Cana of Galilee. Over time Western Christianity separated the celebration of the birth of Jesus as ‘Christmas’ and set the date for December 25 leaving January 6 as the celebration of the visit of the Magi.
The gifts that the Magi brought to Jesus are also important to think about. Each represents an aspect of Jesus’ identity and mission. Gold represents a gift fit for a king and speaks to the royalty of Jesus. Frankincense was used in worship in the temple and points to Jesus as the Priest above all priests. Frankincense, burned on the altar with smoke rising to heaven, can also represent the prayers of the people rising to God and Jesus as the answer to the prayers of generations of the faithful. Myrrh was used as a spice in anointing oil representing the healing that Jesus would bring to all humanity. But myrrh was also commonly used in embalming oil to anoint the body for burial, reminding us that this precious child Jesus was born to die for us in order to break the power of death and sin and to bring healing to all those who will accept it.
The wonderful message of the season of Epiphany is that God is revealed to all people, Jews and Gentiles (that’s us). The wise men represent the people of the world coming to recognize and worship the newborn king. The gifts they brought remind us of the great love of God revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ. They also remind us that we should bring our very best gifts to Him who came to save us from our sin. May you be blessed this new year and Epiphany season and may you offer your very best to God who loved us so much that ‘he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. – John 3:16