Last weekend, my husband and I went out for breakfast at one of our favorite places along the Trinity River bike trail. We were seated and immediately saw one of the families from church sitting next to us – Dad and three children who had all ridden their bikes to breakfast while Mom “recycled” old toys to make room for new ones- obviously a job done clandestinely! We asked about their Christmas and got excited stories about all their gifts, including three new bicycles (only one of the three had mastered the art of riding a bicycle and when they left, we watched Dad running back and forth between the two younger children all the way down the trail – I decided Mom had the easier job)! Something came up about Christmas being over and life at the church and it turned into a delightful conversation…and a teaching moment. When was Christmas season? What was Epiphany? What did The Twelve Days of Christmas (Ladies dancing, Lords a leaping) have to do with the church calendar? And what was that word you just said – Epiphany?
I later thought how amazing it was that retail shops have taken over the liturgical seasons – Christmas officially begins on the day after Thanksgiving (or even Halloween?), Christmas ends on the evening of the 25th, and New Year celebrations conclude the entire season. And what was that day you mentioned, Epiphany?
Epiphany Day is always January 6th – the twelfth day – the days between the birth of Jesus and the arrival of the magi from the East (Epiphany coming from the Greek word for revelation- the revelation of God revealed in Jesus to all the world!). Epiphany Sunday is always the first Sunday of the New Year. So, when you see that the Nativity is still set up in the Sanctuary (the three kings will be moved closer in this Sunday), you won’t be tempted to think that the worship planners simply hadn’t had time to put away the Christmas decorations!
We’ll sing Christmas Carols (and, yes, we can finally sing “We Three Kings”) and celebrate the sacrament of Communion, joining together with Christians around the world as we break the bread and drink from the cup in recognition that this Body of Christ (God incarnate) is broken open for all people –“good news of great joy.”
And we’ll continue our theme of Joy – for, as the prophet Isaiah said (paraphrased):
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. For those living in a land of deep shadows- light! … You expanded joy! The garments of soldiers, even those stained with blood, will be burned as fuel for the bonfire of celebration. For to us a child is born, a son is given, and he will be named Wonderful Counselor, Powerful God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. And His kingdom will be established and sustained with justice and righteousness now and forever.
Rev. Linda McDermott
Associate Pastor of Adult Education