The word epiphany comes from a Greek word meaning “appearance, disclosure, or unveiling.” It means “to show,” “to make known,” or “to reveal.”
In churches of the Western world, Epiphany commemorates the visit of the Wise Men bringing gifts to the newborn Jesus.
The date of Epiphany is January 6–twelve days after Christmas Day. In the Christian calendar, Advent is the season including the four Sundays preceding Christmas. The Christmas season is the twelve days from Christmas to Epiphany, December 25 through January 6.
The coming of the Wise Men “revealed” Jesus as Savior to Gentiles as well as Jews, as Lord and King to the whole world. These Magi were the first Gentiles to acknowledge Jesus as King, and thus to “show” or “reveal” Jesus to the wider world as the Incarnate Christ. This act of worship by the Magi corresponded to Simeon’s blessing that the child Jesus would be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32). It was one of the first indications that Jesus came for all people, of all nations, of all races, and that God’s work in the world would not be limited to a select few.
Christian art and Christmas pageants that depict shepherds and wise men at the manger at the same time are literally incorrect, although they are correct theologically in showing that both Jews and Gentiles came to worship the Christ child.
When we observe this day the Church focuses on its mission of reaching others by “showing” Jesus as the Savior of all people. And the Holy Spirit continues to faithfully “reveal” how we may participate in that calling.
*article originally released on January 4, 2015*