From the Pastor's Desk
The Forgotten Last Day of Christmas
Throughout December, we hear Christmas carols everywhere we go – on the radio, played over the loudspeakers at stores and malls. By the time December 25 rolls around, we are all pretty much ready for the Christmas season to be over. Many people begin to take down their decorations the day after Christmas and most have them packed away for next year by New Year’s Eve.
But when we come to church on December 29 and January 5, the decorations are still up. It’s not because the worship team is too tired to take them down. The decorations are up because in the church, Christmas begins on December 25. And it goes for 12 days and nights – which is why we sing “The 12 Days of Christmas” and there are “Festivals of the Twelfth Night.”
In the church, the Christmas season ends on Epiphany, which is January 6. We celebrate it on the Sunday closest to Epiphany, which is January 5 in 2020.
From the UMCDiscipleship.org resources: “The word epiphany means appearance or manifestation. Popular usage likens epiphany to words such as eureka or aha! Use of this word by some English speakers conjures images of having a light bulb turned on, or of being able to see something that was once hidden from view.”
Traditionally speaking, Epiphany is the date we celebrate that the Magi came to visit the Christ Child and bring gifts to celebrate his life. It’s appropriate to celebrate their coming at some point after the celebration of the birth because that’s when they arrived. We know this because when King Herod learned when the Magi first saw the star (the date on which the babe was born), he had all the baby boys up to age 2 put to death. So it was approximately two years after Jesus was born that the Magi turned up.
There some lessons we can take away from the story of the visit of the Magi.
First, in order for the Magi to follow the star, they had to leave their homes, their comfort, all that familiar and head out on a journey. This took courage and faith. They also showed courage and faith when they defied Herod’s command to come back to him. We can learn from this that a faith journey is often an off-road excursion, with challenges to be faced along the way – but the rewards are worth it!
Another lesson we can learn from the Magi comes when we realize the depth of their commitment. Once they saw the star, they had to provision and pack, plan and then persevere on the journey. They had no idea where the star would lead them – although the probably expected a palace – after all, that’s where kings were born, right? By committing themselves to this journey, they were willing to walk in faith and go wherever the star led.
And finally, we see that the Magi brought gifts. It was the thing to do when visiting royalty – they brought gifts. Gold was the kind of gift that you brought to a king. Frankincense was the kind of gift that you would bring to a priest. Myrrh was given to someone who was about to die.
On This Twelfth Day, or Three Kings Day, otherwise known as Epiphany, think of the gift that you will offer to God in the coming year. The gift of time? The gift of
your talents? Your service in the community? Your witness and testimony? The gift of undying love and devotion?
Their greatest gift comes to us in the form of a realization. The Wise Men were the first Gentiles to recognize that Jesus belongs to everyone. Good news is for everyone, not just a select few.
See you in church!