So the conversation was had in our house today, how do we acknowledge Epiphany? Do we say Joyous Epiphany? Could it be Merry Epiphany or Happy Epiphany? Or is it “Whew, Glad We Made it Here, Epiphany”? NBC News calls it Happy Three Kings Day.
Epiphany, like Advent, was celebrated in my childhood years. The camels and the wise men were never at the manger until the end of Epiphany. They’d start out in the kitchen somewhere and slowly move from place to place, edging closer to the baby Jesus. We’d talk about the journey over rocky, sandy paths on dirty smelly camels. We talked about the three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. We talked about the visit to Herod.
At 8, I figured out another truth about the epiphany. The wise men were never at the manger. They found Mary, Joseph and Jesus at a house in Bethlehem. When I pointed that out to my mom in my eight year old knowing ways, along with the thought that we should add that house to our nativity scene, I thought she’d be happy that I’d paid enough attention to the scripture to figure it out. Instead, I got that look that all parents and kids know. The one that says, “Well, aren’t you just the sweetest little buttered biscuit? Are you out of your mind?” With four kids under the age of eight, I think I just found her breaking point in the holiday decorating madness.
The real truth is we don’t know much exactly about the wise men. We don’t know for fact that there were three. Because of the three gits, the story became three wise men. We sure don’t know their names. It is suspected that they came from Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen or India. Legend has two were white and one was black. It is likely they traveled with a large entourage. There is even a story written by Henry Van Dyke about the fourth wise man who never made it to Bethlehem.
Since the scripture says “the child” and not infant, some say the wise men’s journey took longer than a year. However, Epiphany is celebrated 12 days after Christmas. As a child, we would keep the lights in the windows until the end of Epiphany. Christmas decorations could not come down until after Epiphany. I have continued to honor that tradition of window lights and undecorating.
This song, sung by Bobby Vinton about the three wise men was played often in my childhood years. One of my most cherished Christmas gifts was the vinyl album found by my husband 40 years after it had been lost to me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTYlWj0sx8M
What does Epiphany mean in our world today? An epiphany can be described as an enlightening realization that allows a problem or situation to be understood from a new and deeper perspective. Advent urges us to open our heart to God, to prepare for the coming of Jesus. Epiphany, then, asks us to reflect on all we considered during Advent and let it change us, to comprehend our world in a new light.
Let the light of the star that guided the Wise Men illuminate what you know in your heart to be true. Let that truth have life and show it to the world through your thoughts, words and actions. Match your daily life to what you know in your heart. Let your core values sing your song of praise. Boldly be who you are in God’s eyes.