Thursday, January 5, 2012

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas...

Our texts for this Sunday--on which we will celebrate Epiphany--are Isaiah 60:1-6, Psalm 72, and Matthew 2:1-12. Give these very interconnected texts a read here.

"The Twelve Days of Christmas" used to be my least favorite Christmas song. Every time it came on the radio (unless it was this totally amazing version recorded by The Muppets) I would change the station. What do twelve days have to do with anything? And who would really want their true love to give them such completely ridiculous gifts?

And then in seminary I learned what the 12 days of Christmas actually are: the days that unfold between Christmas Day and January 6, which is designated as "Epiphany"--the day on which we celebrate the visit of the magi and the revelation of Christ's light to all the nations of the world. Epiphany is actually a more ancient Christian festival than the celebration of Christmas, but today--at least in American culture where we prefer to celebrate the "50 Days Before Christmas" rather than "The Twelve Days of Christmas" with decorations up by November 15 and down by December 26--the day of Epiphany, as well as the 10 days of Christmas falling before it, and the seven-week season of Epiphany that follows it, often get lost in the shuffle.

What do we lose in losing such a season? This week I read a reflection by Linda J. Vogel and Dwight W. Vogel on how daily life intersects and needs the seasons of the Christian worship year, and was reminded anew how much Epiphany--a day and season of revelation and worship, of illumination and worldwide impact--is needed. Consider their wise words:

When we long for things to be different, when we watch and
we are an Advent people.

When we recognize the presence of the holy in the
we celebrate Christmas.

When a sense of the sacramental is broken open to us, and we
respond by offering our material wealth, our worship, our
lives and our deaths,
we live an Epiphany life.

The magi, or wise men, of the Gospel reading that falls on Epiphany every year shows us what it looks like to live such "an Epiphany life": Here we find people who studied the world around them and the promises of God, and who made the connections between the two. Here we find people willing to take a journey that was costly in more ways than one--that could have even cost them their lives when it brought them in contact with a violent ruler who felt threatened. Here we find wealthy, educated people not afraid to humble themselves before a peasant toddler, to offer worship that--on the surface--would make them look...well...kind of silly.

The wise men who sought Jesus by the light of the star seem a good place to start the Epiphany journey that will occur not just on this Twelfth Day of Christmas, but stretching weeks into the future as we begin to walk with a growing Jesus as he begins his own revelation of who he is and the Epiphany life to which he is, even now, calling us. Be with us on Sunday as we move from the season of waiting and the season of recognizing into coming days accompanied by the magi's wisdom as we seek to follow the star together.

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