On January 6th, our liturgical calenday reminds us, we celebrate the feast of Epiphany. In the traditional way we Protestant Christians celebrate religious holidays here in the United States, however, Epiphany plays a minor role. When it shows up at all in our consciousness, it is probably just a blip. If I just stopped someone on the street and asked them to name three important Christian holidays, Christmas and Easter would immediately come to mind. They might then, as they cast about for a third, name Thanksgiving, the 4th of July, or even Memorial Day ahead of Ash Wednesday, Pentecost, or Epiphany. Nevertheless, Epiphany (also known as Three Kings Day and the 12th Day of Christmas) is one of the oldest Christian feast days. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition it rivals Christmas, and in some European countries, gifts are actually exchanged on Epiphany rather than on Christmas Day, in memory of the gifts the magi brought to Jesus.
The practice of giving gifts after Christmas has always appealed to me, and one worth considering for those of us who are harried by “last minute” Christmas shopping. My brother-in-law and I always exchange calendars this time of year (I get him “Wolves” and he gets me “Border Collies”) and we always buy our calendar gifts after Christmas when they are half-price. If you wait until January 6th to give gifts, almost every Christmas item is 75% off.
At our church, we have changed our all-staff Christmas Party to an Epiphany Party. That makes so much more sense for those of us who are professionally swamped at Christmas. At our party, we give one another white elephant gifts. The cost limit for such gifts is five dollars, although we prefer to exchange things that came to us free. But at 75% of, there are a lot of $5 elephants out there after Christmas.
Epiphany on the farm can also be as joyous and welcome as Christmas. It is becoming more clear now that the days are getting longer, even if only slightly. The animals sense, along with me, that we are moving toward the light. And ultimately, that is what the word “Epiphany” means- “appearance, insight,” or even “revelation.” Epiphany is a season of Light.
So now, after Christmas, I offer an Epiphany blessing. I hope you all had a happy Christmas. And as we move into this season of Epiphany, may you be continually reminded of the deepest gift that comes this time of year. It is a gift of faith and of hope. It is another affirmation for you and me and all the weary world. May you know that “the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not, cannot, overwhelm it.”