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The Word on the Week

Epiphany

It started out with my inability to remember the items in the “12 days of Christmas” song! Failure in this matter ensures embarrassment when the inevitable quiz question comes along.

I consulted Google to see if there were any theological labels that could be attached to the 12 rather ridiculous items as an aide-memoire. Alas Google didn’t deliver the goods. We tried to rectify the matter ourselves (3 wise men 4 gospels etc) but this left a few blanks.

By this time we were caught up with the various religious traditions most of which terminate their nativity festivities with the “Feast of the Epiphany” on the 12th night counting from the 25th December.

My own recollection centred on the taking down of the decorations and removing the Christmas Cards on 6th January or “old Christmas Day” as it was known. The house looked very bare! We could have done with a “Feast of the Epiphany” to cheer us up!

This Feast marks the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi – the wise men were Gentiles not Jews – (St Matthew Chapter 2 verses 1-12).

Dates in Scripture are notoriously hard to pin down and the use of the Julian and Gregorian calendars adds to the difficulties.

In many countries Epiphany (the word means appearing) is celebrated the 1st Sunday after the 1st January.

However the crux of the matter is that Christ appeared.

The dates in which the shepherds and wise men came is of no great importance. What is of importance to us now was encapsulated by St Paul in his letter to Titus in Chapter 2 verses 11- 14.

It reads, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works”.

We are living in the period between the two ‘appearings’. The first was the ultimate demonstration of grace in God giving the gift of his son to a people who deserved the opposite. The second will be when Christ comes for those who have “fallen asleep in Him” as 1Thessalonians chapter 4 verses 13-18 puts it.

In the meantime we are “to make our calling and election sure” (2 Peter chapter 1 verses 3-11) and be ready for His epiphany.