On Tuesday night our family had a Twelfth Night party to mark the end of the Christmas season and welcome the next feast season in the Church calendar—Epiphany. Since Christmas day the three wooden wisemen from our nativity set had been making their way through our home, moving each night starting in the dining room, spending a cold day in the entryway, plodding along the tops of the kitchen cabinets before the final stretch on the dusty bookshelves in our living room. At our party their twelve day journey ended as my son and his friends cheerfully delivered the wisemen to the stable where they would find baby Jesus.
This is the event that marks the beginning of the season of Epiphany but its not a whole season just about the wisemen. Epiphany means a revelation or a manifestation and is a term that once described the visit of a ruler who was regarded as god. But Jesus’ arrival in our world is so much greater than Caesar dropping in on the provincial village, demanding worship from his subjects. The revelation of Jesus is good news to the whole world because he comes to us as a king whose mission is salvation.
Before Christmas was a fixed date on the Christian calendar, Epiphany was celebrated by the early church. Clement of Alexandria wrote about its celebration in A.D. 205! I think that as the early church spread beyond Israel, all around the Mediterranean Sea and even eastward, they received the story of the wisemen searching for Jesus as a sign that God was welcoming all nations to his kingdom. The salvation offered in Jesus was for Gentiles too and not only the Jewish people. Traditionally, the wisemen are depicted as three men who come from the known regions of the world at that time: Europe, Arabia, and Africa.
In this wonderful season of Epiphany, remember that Jesus is revealing himself to the world. As a church, we will turn our attention to the mission of Jesus that is revealed to us in his words and deeds in the gospels. He is the true king come to his people inviting all people to come experience life in his kingdom.