Sunday January 6 Epiphany
Scriptures: Psalm 72:1-7
1 Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to a king’s son.
2 May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice.
3 May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness.
4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the needy,
and crush the oppressor.
5 May he live while the sun endures,
and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
6 May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth.
7 In his days may righteousness flourish
and peace abound, until the moon is no more.
Matthew 2:1-12 The Visit of the Wise Men
2 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men[a] from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the
land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
“He Is In Bethlehem”
While I was in seminary, I met a professor who had spent the past few years in Spain. It was in the fall and He, another student, and I were talking about the upcoming holiday season. Of course, being in the seminary context, the discussion quickly became one of theology. That was when he made an interesting comment about how he had forgotten about what it was like to be in a non-Christian country. This statement took me by surprise until he explained what he meant.
Spain is a Roman Catholic country. In fact, it could be argued that it is the most Roman Catholic country in the world; outside of the Vatican. This means there is a lot of high-church tradition and old world religious practices. Many in Spain celebrate Christmas as a quiet celebration spent at Mass and then with family. In that part of the world, as well as many others, it is Epiphany which garners the greatest amount of public fanfare. This is when they hold their parades and when much of the gift giving takes place. This is unlike how many in America tends to celebrate with one big push toward Christmas Day and little fanfare for Epiphany. In fact, unless you were raised Catholic, some other high-church tradition, or in close proximity to certain communities, you most likely do the same. Many of us from a Protestant tradition do not view Epiphany with the same reverence or excitement as our Catholic/Orthodox cousins.
You may even wonder why the Old World Traditions give so much attention to Epiphany. It is because this is when the Wise Men brought their gifts to the baby Jesus. Therefore, they view this as the proper time to give gifts and have more public celebrations of the birth of Jesus the Christ. For them, Christmas is a holy day which should be spent in quiet reverence and/or performing pious acts; such as feeding the hungry.
This is not to say we are doing it completely wrong. However, I believe it is worth pondering if we have shoved too much of the Christmas experience into one day or if we should spread out the joy across the season. This might bring a bit more reverence back to the birth day and place some of the outward celebration on a day other than that holy day. Yes, this would disrupt the flow of our lives, but would that be such a bad thing.
Many of us leave our trees up through Epiphany any way, whether through reverence to tradition or because we were too busy the two weeks before. Why not make this more formal and recapture some of the past. Many of us have more than one gift-giving and ham eating days as well. This is because it is hard to get everyone together in one place at one time. Listen, I am not saying we should scrap our traditions. I am merely saying perhaps we should revisit the importance of Epiphany and pay it the respect it deserves with more of a nod and less of a wink. Besides, anything which keeps the Christmas spirit around a little longer cannot be all bad.