Today (January 5) is the Twelfth Day of Christmas and tomorrow (January 6) is the Feast of the Epiphany (we will keep it on Sunday). The Epiphany or to give it its alternative name, The Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, is the second of the Feasts of Light that illuminate the darkness of Winter. Christmas, Epiphany and Candlemas (the Feast of the Presentation on February 2) all celebrate the Light of Christ which scatters the darkness of sin, evil and death. I can remember so clearly my first Northern winter in England in the early Seventies when I experienced these three festivals in their traditional setting. The sense of light in the darkness is rather lost in the bright hot summer of the Southern hemisphere where I grew up. But in the gloom of a London winter the beauty, color and pageantry of the liturgy surrounding these three festivals was a revelation to me. Both Epiphany and Candlemas are rather overlooked in Australia in the midst of summer vacations with their heat, sand and swimming in the ocean!
Epiphany traditionally focuses on three events in the life of Jesus: the Coming of the Magi; the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan by John; and the First Miracle at Cana of Galilee (the changing of Water into Wine). Each event speaks to who the Christ child really is: Universal Savior and Lord. The Coming of the Magi (Three Kings) is a much loved and much illustrated event. Having recently attended the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular I witnessed the arrival of the Three Kings which was “over the top” with dozens of gorgeously robed people in procession complete with live camels. However it is depicted, the Magi from afar speak to the universality of the infant Christ in Bethlehem. This is no local occurrence, no discreet event, but rather one of universal significance and implication. Jesus is “a light to lighten the Gentiles,” he is the “Savior of the World.” The Baptism by John in the Jordan reminds us that this Jesus, born in Bethlehem, is none other than the Son of God. It was after his Baptism as he came out of the water that the voice from heaven announced, “Thou art my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” And, in his first miracle at Cana in Galilee we see the power of God at work bringing new life out of old, wine out of water.
s we begin this New Year, may the Light which shines from Jesus Christ illuminate our lives, our relationships, and our world.