Those truly wedded to all the rites of Christmas can today take down their decorations, on this, the twelfth day of Christmas. Most of us will have done so already though – by January 1st, certainly, the Hosiers want to get the house clear and a new year underway. And we were pretty sick of the pine needles!
I like Epiphany though, or at least the idea of it – it is not a festival I have ever consciously celebrated. If nothing else, epiphany is one of those lovely sounding words that is somehow satisfying to say, but it also has considerable theological meaning. Epiphany means different things to different Christian traditions (Wikipedia offers a pretty comprehensive summary of these) but for the western church it is the day when the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus is commemorated. This is a day which represents the sudden comprehension of new knowledge – of knowledge that makes the world a very different place from what one had previously thought.
Of course, this expansion of knowledge is reflected in our other use of the word epiphany – not one that refers to spiritual enlightenment, but to a new idea or understanding of something. This is what we call “having an epiphany.” One of my daughters found this a frustrating concept over this mornings breakfast table discussion – “How can it mean two things?” She needed an epiphany about the English language to see that.
Or, rather, about the Greek language, as this is the word used in the Bible to describe what happens when God “manifests” himself to someone. So, although we use the word in two ways, epiphany means the same thing in both cases – it means something is made known to us, and the most important thing of all that we can come to know is God himself.
So, again, happy Epiphany – and may this be a year when the knowledge of God is to you truly enlightening, and satisfying.