Saturday, January 1, 2011


Okay, everybody, he’s here. Jesus is here. We commemorated his arrival on Christmas Eve. According to the Gospel of Luke, he arrived in his mother’s arms, wrapped in bands of cloth, and was laid in a feeding trough, in a stable, where his parents were. We also believe that God came to shepherds in the field, through God’s angels, and announced his birth.

We celebrate his birth on December 25. We began our journey to the manger on November 28, the First Sunday in Advent, when the new church year began. We listened to Jesus’ comments about the last days. We spent two Sundays thinking about the meaning of John the Baptist who prepared the way for Jesus. Then we heard the birth story of Jesus, according to the Gospel of Matthew. Joseph heard an angel in a dream tell Joseph to take Mary as his wife, even though she was pregnant. He did so and named the child Jesus.

Since December 25, we have been celebrating the birth of Jesus during the twelve days of Christmas. Jesus is here!

We begin to think about the meaning of his being here on January 6. It is the Day of Epiphany and begins the season of Epiphany. This season of the church year ends with Ash Wednesday, when we begin the season of Lent. And we have a long Epiphany season this year since Easter is the latest that it can be, April 24. Ash Wednesday is March 9. There are nine Sundays in the season of Epiphany, the most we can have. The first Sunday is always the time we celebrate the baptism of Jesus. The last Sunday of Epiphany we celebrate the Transfiguration of Our Lord.

Why is the season of Epiphany so important? We can begin our understanding of this season by remembering that on the Day of Epiphany, the “Wise Men” came from the East to bring gifts to Jesus as Lord and king. They were the first Gentiles to acknowledge the kingship of Jesus. By this action, Jesus was “revealed” to the world. The word epiphany means “to show,” “to make known,” or “to reveal.”

Scripture reports that the Magi brought three gifts to Jesus: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Because there were three gifts, it is traditional to recognize that there were three Magi. However, scripture does not mention the number that came. Traditionally, the names given to the Magi are: Balthasar, Caspar, and Melchior.

Besides our celebration of Jesus being revealed to the world, we consider that during the season of Epiphany, the “Light” has burst forth to all nations and the prophecy is fulfilled: "The Gentiles shall walk in Thy light, and kings in the brightness of Thy rising." The mysterious star of Epiphany, "flashing like a flame," is a facet of the light-motif, a symbol capable of being interpreted in a dozen different ways.

We began this church year in Advent, recognizing that the world has lived in darkness. With the Christmas season, we acknowledge the coming of the Son of God to the world, even though his presence is dimly seen by shepherds, and his parents have to flee to Egypt to save his life.

On the Day of Epiphany, January 6, we recognize that Jesus has burst forth as God’s son, our Lord, the Messiah. The season of Epiphany continues through February until March 8. We celebrate that the light truly has come into the world, as the Gospel of John says, “full of grace and truth.”

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