Decorating the sanctuary for Christmas 2017.
“I’ve had an EPIPHANY!” Mr. Zigmund exclaimed this to me one evening in English class when I was teaching in Slovakia over ten years ago. At 76 years old, he was my oldest and most dedicated student, and also quite the jokester. He then proceeded to tell me that it had been “revealed” to him that English was a crazy language and he was crazy for trying to learn it!
Well, you may have heard the word “epiphany” tossed around in the church season. The word “epiphany” comes from the Greek word “to appear” or “to show oneself.” In the church tradition, on the day of epiphany we celebrate how Christ appeared, or was revealed, to the world.
This special feast day is one of the oldest, aside from Christmas and Easter, in Christian tradition. It’s celebrated by Christians all over the world, including the Eastern (Greek, Eastern and Russian Orthodox – to name a few) and Western (Roman Catholics and Protestants – including Lutherans) churches. For both churches Epiphany is celebrated twelve days after Christmas. For Lutherans and other Western Christmas, that means that each year Epiphany falls on January 6th. For Eastern Christians, who have a different calendar and Christmas date, it falls on January 19th.
As Lutherans, along with Catholics and other Protestants, on Epiphany we celebrate the coming of the Magi, the three wise men. They represent how Christ was revealed as an infant to the Gentiles, a light to people of all times and nations.
In the Eastern church tradition, the day of Epiphany celebrates the baptism of Christ in the Jordan. They remember how Christ divinity was revealed in his baptism as the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus.
In January of 2009 I traveled with a group from the Chicago seminary to Israel/Palestine. On the last day of our trip, January 19th, we made a short trip to the traditional site of Jesus’ baptism at the Jordan River. There we were surprised to see a huge gathering of Coptic Christians (The Eastern church in Egypt) gathered at the river to celebrate Epiphany. They celebrated with lively singing, lots of incense and praying, by blessing the water and remembering their baptism.
As we begin this New Year, 2019, my hope is that we can all experience the joy of Epiphany here at St. Mark. May we experience Christ revealed to us in the coming of a child and in the waters of baptism. May Christ’s grace and love be revealed to you in new and enlightening ways this year.
In Christ’s Light,
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