By The Reverend Anthony Estes, Deacon & Director of Digital Communications
Last Sunday, Pastor Manisha suggested the Church had not done a good job impressing upon the faithful the reason for celebrating Christmas for 12 days. On one hand, Pastor Manisha is right in the sense that Western Christians are not as good at marking liturgical time as Christians in other parts of the world. However, Pastor Manisha highlights our exchange of complex truth for a simpler one (which isn’t necessarily bad). Christmas is not merely the annual sentimental observance of the baby king in the creche. The more mysterious and lingering truth is that God becomes incarnate in Jesus Christ.
The Christmas season ends on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6. Christmas and Epiphany (and the season that follows it) are linked together thematically. To tell you more, please consider this reflection from Michael Merriman.
On Epiphany the theme is the manifestation, or showing forth, of Christ to the Gentiles in the account of the Wise Men. Light is the primary symbol, with the star of Bethlehem the sign that Christ, the light of the world, has come. On the following Sunday, we celebrate the Baptism of Christ. This is one of the four days of the year which the Book of Common Prayer designates as baptismal days. Even if there is no one to be baptized that day, we reaffirm our Baptismal Covenant as we rejoice that Christ, who was manifested as Son of God in his baptism, is now made manifest in us, his Church, through our baptism.
In the weeks after Epiphany, other events in Jesus’ ministry are celebrated: events such as his first miracle of changing water into wine, his first healing, the calling of the disciples, his first preaching. These events reveal him as God’s Son and help us explore more deeply the unlimited extent of his love and our role as the members of his Body in revealing him to the world.
The liturgical texts of this period are very expressive of its meaning and embody many of the symbols, both biblical and cultural, which came to be part of the season:
“…In the mystery of the Word made flesh, you have caused a new light to shine in our hearts, to give the knowledge of your glory in the face of your Son, Jesus Christ.” (Proper Preface for the Epiphany)
“…Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior.” (Collect for the First Sunday after Epiphany)
Source: The Rite Light: Reflections on the Sunday Readings and Seasons of the Church Year. Copyright © 2009 by Michael W. Merriman. Church Publishing Incorporated, New York.