CHR Comment: Christians today celebrate the Epiphany of Jesus Christ, added to the calendar by the Early Church. The name of the feast comes from a Greek word meaning “Make manifest.” The celebration includes different events from Jesus’ life such as the following:
Visitation of the Magi, the first Gentiles to worship the child Jesus. Matthew 2 records their visit, which did not take place on the night Jesus was born but up to two years afterward while Joseph and Mary were living in a house at Bethlehem rather than a stable. Christians in the western tradition often commemorate this event, emphasizing Christ’s mission to save all nations. The Christmas tradition of giving gifts also comes from this biblical event since the Magi brought gifts to Jesus.
Baptism of Jesus. All four Gospels in the New Testament record when the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus as He stood in the Jordan River, consecrating Baptism as a Christian practice and demonstrating its importance for the Christian life. Christians in the eastern tradition often commemorate Epiphany by emphasizing Baptism.
Miracles, such as turning water into wine. A third Epiphany theme is based on John 2 and other passages where Jesus performs miracles or “signs” as John the evangelist called them. Jesus’ miracles showed that He was more than an ordinary human being. He was God manifested in the flesh, the Messiah and Savior. All three Epiphany themes are wonderfully commemorated in an English hymn by Christopher Wordsworth (1807-85), “Songs of Thankfulness and Praise.” Each stanza ends with, “God in man made manifest.”
Included below are links to news stories that describe different local Epiphany practices. In Bulgaria, Eastern Orthodox Christians dance in an icy river. Italian parents put gifts of candy in the shoes of children. In Poland, Spain, and former Spanish colonies, there are Epiphany parades. Christians generally commemorate the feast with a special service on January 6 or the nearest Sunday. The Epiphany season reaches a high point on Transfiguration Sunday and ends on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten fast.
Our family plans to watch The Nativity Story tonight, which includes biblical and legendary portrayals of the Magi visiting the Holy Family (New Line, 2006). We will also have special prayers together, rejoicing that God became man for us and for our salvation.