Epiphany

by Robert H. Spain

Every week you’ll find different types of posts here on the ABS blog. Today’s post is for individuals, to encourage personal reflection and Bible study.

In the United Methodist Calendar under the Glossary of Worship Terms, Epiphany is listed as one of the special worship times of the year. It is to be celebrated on January 6. The day commemorates the coming of the Magi to visit the baby Jesus.

In our culture Christmas begins somewhere around Halloween and is promoted with sights and sounds until the bells ring on Christmas Eve night. Hardly finished with the opening of gifts and gathering with family and friends for Christmas feasting, the “After Christmas” season is announced as though it was over and safely stored on the shelf for another year.

In the Christian culture Christmas begins on December 25th. and continues through Epiphany on January 6 thus the popularized Twelve Days of Christmas.

Although many know about the 12 gifts from one’s true love – the partridge in a pear tree, two turtle doves, three French hens, four calling birds, five golden rings etc., we are often lacking in the significance of the magi (wise men) from the East following a star into Jerusalem and later into Bethlehem where they worshipped the newborn Child and presented gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

 

Before Christmas was celebrated as a special time honoring the birth of Christ, Epiphany, the time of manifestation to the Wise Men from the East, was celebrated in the Eastern Church. In the Western world Epiphany became a part of the worship experience in the fourth century. Most of our treasured stories come via the Gospel of Matthew.

Here are other suggested readings for Epiphany:

  • Old Testament – Isaiah 60:1-6
  • Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
  • Epistle - Ephesians 3: 1-12
  • New Testament – Matthew 2: 1-12

The church and Christian communities have allowed some of our Biblical heritage to be blended into the prevailing culture, but sneaking into many services next Sunday will be the hymn:

We three kings of Orient are;
bearing gifts we traverse afar,
field and fountain, moor and mountain,
following yonder star.

Glorious now behold him arise,
King and God and sacrifice:
Alleluia, Alleluia,
sounds through the earth and skies.

O star of wonder, star of light,
star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
guide us to thy perfect light.

 

The season after Epiphany is observed from the first Sunday after Epiphany until Ash Wednesday. The last Sunday after Epiphany is celebrated as transfiguration Sunday.

 

 

Today's blog post was written by Robert H. Spain. Robert Spain is a retired United Methodist bishop and former chaplain of the United Methodist Publishing House.

 

 

 

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