The Twelfth Day of Christmas has come, December 6th, Epiphany, which closes out the Christmas season. Our tree still twinkles in the living room; red and green lights still grace the windows. I’m loath to release them back to their dark storage boxes in the basement.
I like Epiphany – both the Feast Day and the word itself. Epiphany comes from the Greek epiphanein, a showing or revelation, and celebrates the revelation of Jesus as divine. The Wise men enter into this part of the Nativity stories – the magi coming to offer gifts to the child: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Evidence of celebrations in Egypt and the churches of Near East possibly date from the early third century; the feast was introduced to the churches in Gaul in the mid-fourth century. A very ancient celebration.
I remember a television program from other year when astronomers, studying star charts from the first century, presented evidence of a large and close star to earth in about 4 ACE. They said the story of magi astrologers following a star had a basis in astronomical facts.
Where did the Nativity stories begin? One could argue that all heroes had spectacular birth stories, and the birth stories of Jesus manufactured from those earlier stories; but that doesn’t explain magi following a star. Why that part? What was it that had the whiff of truth and the piece of actuality that wove itself into magi and gold and gifts and Herod killing off first-born sons?
We commonly use the word epiphany to mean we had a sudden, bright idea. There’s a basis for that although the common word, instead of the feast day, still has a spiritual quality to it. The American Heritage Dictionary says, 1. A revelatory manifestation of a divine being. 2. A spiritual event in which the essence of a given object of manifestation appears to the subject, as in a sudden flash of recognition.
That’s more than just a good idea.
“To shine” says the Indo-European root. To shine. As in our tree or the lights circling our windows.
Which doesn’t really leave me anywhere except with the need to mark the day and bless it. To recognize the shine that lights the darkness even in winter: the light revealed and shining within us.
So, Happy Epiphany. May your light so shine.