Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Over the past 2 weeks, I have been asked 5 or 6 times (including once by a fellow clergy) exactly what Epiphany is and why Lutherans pay any attention to it. So, I’m going to make an attempt at providing some definitions and reasons regarding Epiphany. Hopefully, this will improve understanding and clear confusion. In addition, there is a difference in how we look at the church calendar between the Eastern (Orthodox) Church and the Western (Protestants, Catholics and Anglicans) Church. So here we go:
Epiphany and the season that follows is Jesus’ manifestation of Himself as God. (The word epiphany is Greek for manifestation, and we use it to mean realization.) Epiphany is 12 days after Christmas and always falls on January 6. The Sundays following are referred to as, “The Sundays after the Epiphany.” The biblical texts and sermons during this time of the year deal with Jesus’ identity.
For lectionary purposes, the Season after the Epiphany begins on the Epiphany (January 6) and ends on the day before Lent. This year Epiphany will end on Tuesday, March 5 (also known as - Mardi Gras [French for “Fat Tuesday”]; Shrove Tuesday [English for “confession Tuesday”]; Carnival [Latin for “farewell to meat”]; and Lent will begin on Wednesday, March 6 (also known as Ash Wednesday].
The purpose of the liturgical calendar is to relive the major events in Jesus’ life in real time. To fulfill the requirements of Leviticus 12:2-8, Mary had to present Jesus at the Temple and offer a sacrifice. According to Luke 2:22-24, she did just that. If Jesus was born on 25 December, then this would have occurred on 2 February. Therefore, 2 February is known in the historic church as The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple. Incidentally, if you compare Leviticus 12:2-8 with Luke 2:22-24, you will find that Mary and Joseph were of modest means.
The theme throughout Epiphany are the stories of how Jesus Manifests Himself as God. The Revised Common Lectionary appoints scripture readings for use in worship during the Season after the Epiphany. Since an epiphany is a realization, the scriptures help us realize Jesus’ identity, with a greater and greater scope. So far in the month of January, we heard about the Baptism of Jesus and God announcing that Jesus is his beloved, his Son. Then we heard about the miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana. Its climax is the Transfiguration on the last Sunday after the Epiphany.
The color for the Season after the Epiphany is white which we use to note baptism, resurrection, angels, and any heavenly realm. Therefore, it is the color for Sundays that commemorate events in Jesus’ life, such as the Baptism of our Lord, the Transfiguration, and the Epiphany. Otherwise, the color green is used to symbolize growth and life.
merely scratches the surface of the complexities of Epiphany, and I
hope it provides you with some questions rather than some answers
that you may have had. In the spirit of fairness, the clergy who
asked me about Epiphany is from a more Pentecostal tradition where that
denomination does not follow a liturgical calendar. If I am being
honest, this clergy could most likely educate me regarding the
importance of Pentecost and the speaking in tongues.
My February challenge to you is as you enter worship or your personal devotions, pay particular attention to the texts. We will continue to hear and look at how God continues to manifest Himself in your life through Christ Jesus. (See the February scripture lessons in this newsletter, page 3.)
Servants together, Pr. Paul <><
p.s. – Did you know??? An idea was presented at a meeting of those attending both youth and adult Sunday School/Bible Study. Coming in March – we are going to have a “Stump the Pastor” time to answer those questions about your faith that have been nagging you. Get a head start on that day and start writing down some of your questions. Please feel free to email them ahead of time if you wish. Watch your calendar!!
p.s.s. - Did you know this about Luther??? Did you know Luther had an Epiphany after reading the Bible? It became his 95 Theses!