Epiphany: Jesus Revealed
As we leave the holiday season behind, we continue the journey that we began in Advent, working through the Eucharistic lectionary (assigned readings) of the historic Anglican Book of Common Prayer. With the conclusion of the traditional “twelve days of Christmas” on January 5, we celebrate Epiphany on January 6, which begins the season of Epiphanytide.
Epiphanytide, the lesser-known season sandwiched between Christmas and Lent/Easter, offers us an important time to remember the fullness of Jesus’ identity as shown by his earthly life. As disciples of Jesus, this is important because it shows us who we serve! Though the high point of the Christian year is always Easter, followed by Christmas, Epiphanytide keeps us from jumping straight from “he was born” to “he died for us” and thus reducing God’s grace to a mechanical process.
The feast of Epiphany itself (Jan 6) commemorates the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 2.1-12. This story marks the first “manifestation” or “appearance” (Greek: epiphaneia) of Jesus to the Gentiles, or non-Jews. The Magi’s recognition of Jesus as king foreshadows his universal reign over all peoples.
As the season unfolds, the Bible readings appointed for worship during this season continue this theme of “manifestation” by revealing who Jesus is and what he is about. We call our attention to Jesus as King (Epiphany, Jan 6), God’s son (Epiphany 1), divine bridegroom (Epiphany 2), healer (Epiphany 3), Lord of nature (Epiphany 4), judge (Epiphany 5), and coming ruler (Epiphany 6).
Depending on the date of Easter, Epiphanytide can run anywhere from four to nine Sundays in length, before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. In 2018, Ash Wednesday is February 14 (happy Valentine’s Day!) and Epiphanytide has six Sundays. The readings for Epiphanytide begin on p117 of the Book of Common Prayer, or you can find them online. (“Epiphany 1”, for example, means the first Sunday after Epiphany).
If you have any questions about the Book of Common Prayer, the lectionary, or any of what may well be new vocabulary related to the church year, don’t hesitate to ask a pastor! Our hope for Little T is that the richness of our historical tradition will inform and enliven the vibrant present-day discipleship of our congregation. To God be the glory!
[Note: readers paying close attention may wonder about the confusing (and hard to pronounce) Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima Sundays that follow the Sundays after Epiphany! These are ancient, traditional days in the Christian year that serve as a sort of pre-Lent, pivoting us from the general revelation of Epiphany to penitential season of Lent. For the present preaching series, we’ll use the readings through the fifth Sunday after Epiphany and then conclude the Epiphanytide season with Quinquagesima Sunday, which is the 50th day before Easter (and thus a sort of “book-end” to Easter with Pentecost, which is the 50th day after Easter).]