Epiphany


 

 

The word "Epiphany" means "showing" or "revealing" and it is celebrated in the western world on January 6th. On this day we recall the story of how wise men from the east followed a star which led them to Jesus in Bethlehem. They brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold was for kingship, frankincense for prayer and worship, and myrrh for death - very strange gifts for a baby! They hint at how special this particular baby was. Often this story is included in Christmas itself, but the wise men (or kings) have always had their own festival at Epiphany.

 

The wise men were not Jewish, like all the other people in the story were up to this point. They were foreigners, strangers from an unknown land far away, and this is important in the story. It shows how Jesus came to save not just his own people, but everyone - he is the Saviour of the world, and everyone is invited to follow and worship him. Through this story he is "shown" or "revealed" to the wider world - hence the name "Epiphany".

Epiphany lasts about a month. Each Sunday during this month, a different story from the Bible about Jesus is read, gradually revealing more about him: his baptism in the River Jordan, his first miracle or sign where he turns water into wine, the call of his first disciples. It ends on February 2nd with Candlemas.

Candlemas marks the very end of the Christmas season which began in Advent. On this day the story is told of how Mary & Joseph take baby Jesus to the Temple. There, two elderly people of faith, Simeon and Anna, recognise him as the one God promised to send to his people. Simeon calls him "a light" to the people, and knows now he can die in peace. On this day it is traditional to fill the church with candlelight, and to bless the candles to be used in the coming year. Christmas is now officially over, and Christians begin to look forward to springtime, Lent and, eventually, Easter.

All the stories mentioned in these notes can be found mainly in the gospels of Matthew and Luke in the Bible. If you'd like to know, more, do contact one of the clergy:

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