The Epiphany or Manifestation of Christ is a wonderful, special feast to draw us into a new year. It is usually now celebrated on the Sunday nearest to the original date of 6 January. For us at ‘St Paul’s @ Western’ it is a delight to celebrate this day as a Family Communion at 9.30 am on 5 January, with all ages present for the whole of the service.
The main focus of Epiphany is the visit of the magi, or wise men, to the baby Jesus, as painted here by Murillo around 1655. Their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh have symbolic meaning: gold is for kingship; frankincense for holiness; and myrrh, a fragrant resin, was used for anointing at the time of death. This foreshadows Jesus’ crucifixion.
The Epiphany is important in that it makes abundantly clear that Jesus’ life, whilst made a reality among the Jewish people of his day, is for everyone. The magi come from a foreign land and represent for us the whole of humanity.
Their humble act of kneeling to give precious gifts to the Christ child symbolises their acknowledgement of his infant kingship. They are saying, ‘Here is the one we have been seeking for so long’.
We in our own age are invited to place the gift of our lives before the crib. In doing this we acknowledge the vulnerable humanity of God born for us. Each year as we celebrate this feast day, we are different from a year ago – perhaps a year wiser, or more humble, or more open to receiving all that God continues to offer.
May each of us in some way feel both renewed for a new year and inspired with a fresh glimmer of God’s unique purpose for us.