What is Epiphany?
Photo by Walter Chávez on Unsplash
MOM!!! Andrew moved the wise men! MOM!
My first cup of coffee was still warm when the yelling shattered my quiet time, freezing the hand holding the mug halfway between the table and my mouth. My prayer started with “Lord, Help me!” I lowered the cup, closed my Bible, and started to rise. At least I got a few minutes with God before the day got going.
Dena stood at the top of the stairs, yelling for me to come up to her. She was just out of bed. Her only goal, each day between Thanksgiving and Epiphany, was to locate the Wisemen. This tradition involved one of our Nativity sets made of rubber. Each night my husband would take the three wise men and put them far away from the manger, usually outside one of our children’s bedrooms. I would take Mary, Joseph, and the donkey and place them in a room close to the manger but still at a distance. Every night from the First Sunday of Advent until Christmas, I would move the family closer to the manger. My husband would move the Wisemen around our house until Epiphany, on January 6th. On the morning of January 6th, the Wisemen would arrive to meet Jesus near our Christmas tree.
This year Dave was deployed so the whole tradition landed on me.
The screaming erupted because I had placed the wise men outside Andrew’s door, and he decided he could play with them. Dena believed otherwise and she was rarely quiet about her opinions. Most mornings, the kids loved waking up to see how far each group had traveled during the night. This morning Andrew moved them before Dena could see them.
When my husband was deployed, I was responsible for everything, three kids under eight, a house in a foreign country, and all our usual traditions. This was hard. It was a constant reminder of how alone I felt with my husband so far away. Yet each morning my kids’ joy at finding the Wisemen and Mary and Joseph, reminded me I was not alone. Even Dena’s yelling reminded me I was not alone.
I was not alone. My husband was away from us and he felt alone. My husband missed moving the Wisemen. When he called, the kids would tell him where the Wisemen were in the house. I could hear his pain of missing this tradition. Missing traditions were harder on him than I realized. I prayed for him to pour into the military members around him and to reach out to his battle buddy.
When we started setting up decorations for Christmas, my kids would bring me the “baby Jesus” from each of my Nativity sets (I have a lot of them). Mary, Joseph, and the donkey would arrive at the manger on the morning of Christmas eve. I would spend time putting “baby Jesus” into every manger. Most Christmas Eves I spend a lot of time wracking my brain trying to remember which “very safe place” I stowed the babies in, and every year when I pulled them out of hiding, I thanked God that He never forgets where I am.
To remind us of Christ’s sacrifice, Advent continues through to Epiphany which falls on January 6th, approximately forty days after the first Sunday of Advent. Epiphany is also a holy day to remind us of the Magi, (also known as the Wisemen) who visited Joseph, Mary, and Jesus to warn them of Herod’s evil schemes. We don’t know exactly when they arrived, but due to Herod’s order requiring all male children two and under to be murdered, historians believe they arrived after Jesus’ birth but before his third birthday. Matthew 2:1-18 recounts this story.
When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:10-11
Since they went “into the house,” we know Jesus’ family had moved into a house rather than remaining in the stable. Knowing instantly that Jesus was the Son of God, the Wisemen fell down and worshiped Him. They brought gifts for Jesus, and each gift serves a specific purpose, each one represents an aspect of Jesus’s identity and character. Gold represents Jesus’ royalty. Frankincense was used to make incense which represents Jesus as our High Priest. Myrrh is an anointing and embalming oil which represents his humanity and reminds us of his death and resurrection.
Just as Christmas reminds us of Jesus’ birth, the time between Christmas and Epiphany reminds us about facts of our faith.
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