The Epiphany (6 January) is in fact an ancient date for Christmas, and the Eastern churches still keep it as such.
For us in the west it signifies the end of the ‘twelve days of Christmas’, immortalised in Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’ and the children’s carol: “The Twelve Days of Christmas…” where Christ is mysteriously represented as the partridge in the pear tree.
The Epiphany of Christ simply means the manifestation of Christ to the world, hence the association of today’s festival with the visit of the magi (representing the wise of the whole world, rather than just Israel). The Bible stories we read during the time of the Epiphany (four weeks) are all associated with how Jesus got to be known in the first instance (he was manifested): his early attendance at the wedding in Cana (John 2), when he manifested his divinity by changing water into wine, and his baptism in the Jordan (recounted in all four gospels).
But there are two other aspects of the Epiphany: firstly it is a time when the church blesses the waters of baptism and we – by extension – renew our baptismal faith and promises and this tradition goes back to the third century AD; secondly it is a time when our homes are blessed, we can do this for ourselves by praying this blessings prayer for our homes:
O God of Light, bless this (our) house and this (our) family. May this be a place of peace and health. May each member of this family cultivate the gifts and graces you have bestowed, dedicating our talents and works for the good of all.
Make this house a shelter in the storm and a haven of rest for all in need of your warmth and care. And when we go out from this place, may we never lose sight of that Epiphany star. As we go about our work, our study, our play, keep us in its light and in your love.
6 January 2019