When I was a boy, we knew it was Epiphany when the familiar silhouetted-image of Three Wise Men bearing gifts and following the Star by night appeared in church. In some cultures, Epiphany is known as the Day of the Kings (Dia de los Reyes). It is also known as Twelfth Night, reflecting an old custom of giving a gift for each of the days from December 25 to January 6 (the 12 days of Christmas). Several branches of Christianity celebrate the birth of the Christ Child on January 6th or 7th.
The word ‘epiphany’ means appearance or manifestation. Popular usage likens epiphany to words such as eureka or aha! Use of this word by some English speakers conjures images of having a light bulb turned on, or of being able to see something that was once hidden from view. The texts for the Sundays after the Epiphany dramatize the many ways that we people came to understand who Jesus was, through his baptism, the miracle at the wedding, or through the declaration in his hometown synagogue. But, this ever-widening circle of revelation began ‘outside the circle’ of Judaism, so to speak, with the Magi.
The Wise Men began their journey because of their beliefs. It was a common belief that when a world leader like a king was born that a special stellar phenomenon would appear in the sky. The Magi saw something that convinced them that they had seen the long-awaited sign. Historians tell us that the Jews, the Romans, and the Persians were all watching the skies about that time, looking for signs of the birth of an extraordinary king. A few years before, around 11 BC, Halley’s Comet had been seen. There were other stellar phenomena, including a bright star, Sirius, which appeared brightly in the daytime instead of at night. The Wise Men saw the star and began their journey.
May God give us all inspiration as we journey in prayer this coming year.
Prayer and Spirituality Enabler
If you would like to explore any of these ideas further then do get in touch with James. He is happy to come and speak to chapters, synods, prayer events or weekends away.