Sunday, January 6, 2008
Today, January 6th, is the celebration of The Epiphany, or The Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles in the Anglican tradition. Below you'll find an excellent description and explanation of Epiphany from the CRI (Christian Resource Institute) website which I edited down to cover the basics. (The author, Dennis Bratcher, is a professor at Point Loma Nazarene University from which I received my undergrad degree and also at which I taught as an Adjunct in the Literature Department when my children were quite young.)
The Collect for Epiphany from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer reads:
O God, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the Gentiles; Mercifully grant that we, who know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
From the CRI website:
The Season of Epiphany
In western Christian tradition, January 6 is celebrated as Epiphany. Epiphany is the climax of the Advent/Christmas Season and the Twelve Days of Christmas, which are usually counted from the evening of December 25th until the morning of January 6th, which is the Twelfth Day. This is an occasion for feasting in some cultures, including the baking of a special King's Cake as part of the festivities of Epiphany. The Season of Christmas begins with the First Sunday of Advent, marked by expectation and anticipation, and concludes with Epiphany, which looks ahead to the mission of the church to the world in light of the Nativity. The one or two Sundays between Christmas Day and Epiphany are sometimes called Christmastide. For many Protestant church traditions, the season of Epiphany extends from January 6th until Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent leading to Easter. In some western traditions, the last Sunday of Epiphany is celebrated as Transfiguration Sunday.
The term epiphany means "to show" or "to make known" or even "to reveal." In Western churches, it remembers the coming of the wise men bringing gifts to visit the Christ child, who by so doing "reveal" Jesus to the world as Lord and King. In some Central and South American countries influenced by Catholic tradition, Three Kings’ Day, or the night before, is the time for opening Christmas presents. The colors of Epiphany are usually the colors of Christmas, white and gold, the colors of celebration, newness, and hope that mark the most sacred days of the church year.
As with most aspects of the Christian liturgical calendar, Epiphany has theological significance as a teaching tool in the church. The Wise Men or Magi who brought gifts to the infant Jesus were the first Gentiles to acknowledge Jesus as "King" and so were the first to "show" or "reveal" Jesus to a wider world as the incarnate Christ. This act of worship by the Magi, which corresponded to Simeon’s blessing that this child Jesus would be "a light for revelation to the Gentiles" (Luke 2:32), was one of the first indications that Jesus came for all people, of all nations, of all races, and that the work of God in the world would not be limited to only a few.
The day is now observed as a time of focusing on the mission of the church in reaching others by "showing" Jesus as the Savior of all people. It is also a time of focusing on Christian brotherhood and fellowship, especially in healing the divisions of prejudice and bigotry that we all too often create between God’s children.
In past years, we have given our children their "big gift" on Epiphany. When Keith's business was doing well, we gave them an X-Box or a the complete set of Star Wars movies, or something else for them all to share. This year we can't do that, but I will bake up a batch of brownies to eat after we take down the Christmas things (always a somewhat depressing job in itself) which should help us to celebrate a little bit.
The calendar worked with us well this year, enabling us to remain on vacation from school all the way through Christmastide. But tomorrow the grind begins again with school for all and teaching for me. We have Class Day on Thursday (and therefore I have quite a stack of grading to do!) and most of our schedule is back up and running. So it's back to work, finishing up our semester this week and gathering together grades for my own four students as well as for my two writing classes.
I wish you and yours a blessed Epiphanytide, and also blessings as we all return to the joy and work of ordinary days.
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." -- St. Matthew 5:16, KJV