The Bible is full of enlightening appearances, divine manifestations, and brilliant revelations sometimes known as an epiphany. Literally “epiphany” means “to manifest, or to appear,” from the two Greek words “epi” (upon) and “phanein” (to appear) as expressed in the Bible in 2 Timothy 1:10.
“It has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.“
An epiphany can be a sudden manifestation or gradual sense of awakening. The length of time is not what is important; but rather, the breaking in of light or awareness or revelation or insight, no matter how long that takes. Epiphany is often associated with light shining in the darkness. A typical scripture passage related to Epiphany is Isaiah 60:1-3:
Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
Epiphany, as a sacred day in the Christian calendar is celebrated on January 6th, the day I am writing this blog post. I write before the sun has risen, in the dark. I await the coming of “the brightness of your dawn.” I wait for God’s epiphany this morning. Traditionally, the sacred day of Epiphany celebrates the arrival of the magi to Bethlehem, as told in Matthew 2:
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2:9-11).
Because there were three extraordinary gifts given, we often associate this story as the story of the three kings, or three wise men. Around the world today in Spanish speaking countries, Epiphany is known as “El Dia de los Tres Reyes,” the day of the three kings. On this day, traditional practice in many countries is to give gifts in honor the the birth of Jesus.
In our home, on Epiphany, we light Epiphany candles in within our three golden crown candle holders, and we bake “Kings Bread,” sweet rolls made into a wreath, with an almond hidden in one of the rolls. After dinner, each person chooses a roll from the wreath. Whoever finds the “king” gets to wear the special Epiphany crown and be “king/queen for the day,” receive special sweets, and gets a day off from doing chores.
Our worship services include such songs of light and vision such as “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise”:
Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great name we praise.
Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might;
Thy justice, like mountains, high soaring above
Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.
To all, life Thou givest, to both great and small;
In all life Thou livest, the true life of all;
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
And wither and perish – but naught changeth Thee.
Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;
All praise we would render; O help us to see
Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee!
Words by Walter Chalmers Smith; Music–traditional Welsh folk song