When I was in high school, my youth group signed up to ring the Salvation Army bell at one of our local grocery stores. I remember this day very vividly not because the winter weather was pleasant or because I love this particular grocery store… I remember it because for our entire bell-ringing shift we sang Christmas carols. Now, I can’t recall our entire repertoire, but I do know that we sang The 12 Days of Christmas … many, many times. I, as the conductor, would point to one of my peers and they would have to sing the gifts of that particular day and if they erred in any way, we would start over. It was The 12 Days of Christmas that never ended.
Speaking of the 12 days of Christmas, I had someone ask me recently if these days occurred before or after Christmas Day. The answer to that is: after. Because Christmas is a season — did you know that? It’s not just a one-day deal. Christmas is a 12 day season, ending on January 6th with Epiphany.
The Day of Epiphany is an ancient Christian feast day that celebrates a couple things: (1) the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist and (2) the visit the three Wise Men made to the baby Jesus. Because, despite popular nativity-set belief, the Wise Men weren’t present the night that Jesus was born. According to Matthew 2, it was after Jesus was born that the Wise Men came to King Herod looking for the “newborn king of the Jews.” So we celebrate their arrival on January 6th, the Day of Epiphany.
But why is this day and this season called “Epiphany?” Because it’s Greek origin means “to show” or “to reveal,” and refers to Jesus being revealed to the world AND to the first gentile believers (gentiles being anyone who is not Jewish). That’s right! It wasn’t Peter or Paul who encountered the first gentile believers, it was the infant Jesus.
So during this forthcoming day and season of Epiphany, we continue our Christmas celebration. We continue to celebrate and remember that God is with us, that God took on human flesh and lived on earth. And we continue to celebrate and remember that Jesus came not only to save Jews, but gentiles as well — gentiles like you and me. This is most definitely good news! Let’s live as Christmas and Epiphany people — rejoicing in the birth of our savior who has been revealed to us and remains with us, this day and forevermore.
Epiphany Fun Fact: Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar are the names of the 3 Wise Men. They represent Europe, Arabia, and Africa respectively.