Tonight is the twelfth night since Christmas Day and it is called, appropriately, the Twelfth Night. That means that tomorrow is Epiphany, the day that begins the season after Christmastide – that starts on January 6th and, depending on who you speak with, ends on February 2nd or extends until the beginning of Lent.
The season of Epiphanytide, the liturgical season that starts after the day of Epiphany, has it roots in the celebration of several Christian remembrances. For example, it is thought that the Magi visited the Christ child 12 days after His birth and this signified the public revealing or appearance of Jesus to the world. Additionally, some churches celebrate several other events that reveal the glory of Jesus during this season of Epiphanytide. His baptism, the Transfiguration and the turning of water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee are also examples of the revealing of the glory of Jesus that fits with the theme of the revelation of Jesus to the world.
In previous posts, I have mentioned that some scholars believe that the Magi didn’t visit the Christ child until about 18 months after His birth. And there could have been up to 300 wise men who made the journey. Regardless of your belief system, the timing of the visit of the wise men isn’t nearly as important as the fact that they were almost certainly Gentiles and their journey was a public acknowledgment of the importance of Jesus to the world.
Similarly, the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist also marked the official start of His ministry and this also revealed the glory of God as the Father spoke from heaven – the Holy Spirit was also present in the form of a dove descending from heaven. This is one of the few times in the Scriptures when all three members of the Godhead were mentioned during an event.
The turning of water into wine during the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee was the first public miracle that Jesus performed. It was the first of many miracles that Jesus did and this public demonstration is consistent with the theme of Epiphany, the appearance of Jesus to the world through events in His life.
Some denominations believe that all Christmas decorations must be put away by the day of Epiphany or they must stay up until Candlemas, the 40th day after Christmas and the traditional end of Epiphanytide. Biblically, 40 days signifies a time of completion and also, in Leviticus, we are told that it is the period of purification for women who have delivered a son. Therefore, this would also be the day that Mary would have been considered legally “clean” after the birth of Jesus. Of course, there are denominations that believe, due to the very nature of the Virgin birth, that Mary did not have to complete the 40 day ritual referred to in Leviticus.
From a liturgical point of view, the first eight days of Epiphanytide are signified by the color white and then the rest of the season is liturgically green. And there are many in the Christian community that don’t consider Epiphanytide a “season” in the church calendar at all!
So there you have it – a number of views on what follows Christmas… Whatever your Christian belief system, we know that Jesus was born to save the world – and that means to save us from our sins. Our verse for tonight affirms this biblical truth. Matthew, in his Gospel, tells us in Matthew 1:21, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
My encouragement this evening is that Jesus made it possible to be reunited with God after the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. My prayer is that we will all remember the remarkable life, death and resurrection of Jesus that all started with His birth in Bethlehem several thousand years ago. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…