January 6 is the traditional date of celebration in the west of the Epiphany. Sometimes it’s called Three King’s Day. Epiphany has generally been regarded as the end of Advent or what some celebrate as the Twelve Days of Christmas, December 25 to January 6.
Epiphany means “manifestation.” It recognizes the coming of God in human form, the babe in the manger, as celebrated by the Three Kings from the East who worshiped the babe they knew was the Christ. They presented him with gifts of gold and frankincence and myrrh as a way of celebrating Jesus’ position as Savior, Lord, and King.
I grew up in a church tradition that did not celebrate Advent or Epiphany, much less the Twelve Days of Christmas. Not that this was a bad thing. I enjoyed a series of wonderful Christmas seasons as a child, teenager, and young adult. It’s just that my church experience didn’t focus on these forms of remembering the First Coming of Jesus.
In recent years, I’ve enjoyed learning more about these traditions as a way of learning more about the Christian faith. What I like best is that Advent gets us thinking earlier, before Christmas, about the reason for the season, while the Twelve Days of Christmas leading to Epiphany allows us to stretch the season longer.
Epiphany is particularly enjoyable for me because I’ve always loved the Christmas carol, “We Three Kings of Orient Are.” I used to sing it to the kids when they went to bed in the days leading up to Christmas. In fact, we used to sing it pretty much year round lying on the floor or the bed in the dark—elongating the “Oh-h-h-Oh” at the top of our lungs—You had to be there.
The conservative Church and increasingly ahistorical Christians need to rediscover and resurrect more worthy old traditions. They can enrich our knowledge, our experience, and our worship. Learning about Advent, the Twelve Days of Christmas, and the Epiphany have enriched mine.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011
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