Well, the Christmas decorations are still up outside, even though Janet and I have been successful in getting the indoor things put away during the past week. It has been dangerously cold and it isn’t worth getting sick to take down the outside lights. The inside stuff has methodically been taken down and stored away until the Christmas season of 2018 arrives. We started slowly, with the second floor and eventually worked our way through the main rooms of the house – the most heavily decorated, including several trees that we have had up since late November. We saved the lower level till last and finally got that finished several days ago.
Now that doesn’t mean that we are done. We have both the back deck and the front of the house to do still. But as I said earlier, it has been absolutely frigid. In fact, we have had some of the coldest weather ever for these early days of January. Yet that doesn’t seem to stop some of the local kids who have ventured out on the frozen ice of the lake in hopes of playing or skating back there.
But I think that I am more sensitive to cold than I was years ago. I find that we are keeping the fireplaces on more often and if I try to do almost anything outside I better be sure that I have my gloves on. Even then, I don’t want the decorations down bad enough to brave this bone-chilling cold. I mentioned to a neighbor that I was sorry we hadn’t been able to get things back to normal yet, but they said that they grew up in an area that kept Christmas stuff up until January 6th – sometimes called Epiphany.
Epiphany is one of those dates that is celebrated by different people different ways. In typical western Christian cultures, it was traditional to leave decorations up until what is referred to as the Twelfth Night – that is, the night before Epiphany.
That’s because January 6th is the 12th day after Christmas – and the date is used to commemorate the birth of Jesus – the light of the world. Additionally, it is believed that the Magi – the wise men – first met the Christ child on this day. Now, in some circles, it is believed that there could have been as many as 300 wise men who came to see Jesus, but in any event, it was probably more than the three that we sing about at Christmas.
Epiphany also is celebrated by the eating of Three Kings cakes, attending church, lighting candles, having your house blessed, singing and a host of other practices, even including baptism, that are symbolic of the “light of the world” entering the physical realm of the earth – a reminder that the human Christ child was indeed God incarnate. It is widely believed that the original day of Epiphany was used to celebrate the baptism of Jesus – a decidedly human sacrament.
You can see that almost all these rituals celebrate the entrance of Jesus into the physical world. But back to the decorations. Epiphanytide, the liturgical season that begins on January 6th, celebrating the entrance of Jesus into the world, precludes taking down decorations once the season has begun, at least in some western cultures. In fact, if decorations are not down the the Twelfth Night, they are supposed to stay up until Candlemas, the 40th day of the Christmas-Epiphany season. By the way, that occurs on February 2nd, and in some parts of the world, it is expected that people will leave their decorations up until Candlemas. Sometimes, part of the Candlemas worship is to bring candles to church, where they are blessed and then used for the rest of the year.
Our verse for this evening is the introductory verse to tell us about the Magi traveling to meet Jesus. In the first Gospel, Matthew tells us, in Matt. 2:1-2, “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”
My encouragement tonight is that Jesus came to live among us as the light of the world and hundreds of millions of people across the globe celebrate that event each Christmas. My prayer is that regardless of when you decide to take down your Christmas decorations – you will celebrate the birth of the Christ child not only in December, but into Epiphany in January and into Candlemas in February and throughout the other 10 months of the year. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…