Christmas and Epiphany
Seasons celebrating the birth of Christ and His showing to the world.
Christmas and Epiphany are the 2nd and 3rd seasons of the Church’s year. The seasons run from Christmas Day to the Presentation of Christ in the Temple (Candlemas) on 2nd February.
Christmas and Epiphany have many meanings and associations:
- It is a time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
- It is a time when we remember the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Messiah for the World.
- Christmas and Epiphany is about the gift of God’s love to the world. Jesus is God’s gift to us; the world’s response is represented in the gifts of the Shepherds and the Wise Men.
- Epiphany is the time when we celebrate the way Jesus is shown to the Gentiles world.
How does the Church portray this in its practice?
We look to Scripture as a source of understanding about the birth of Jesus, in St Matthew and St Luke. St Matthew also speaks of the coming of the Wise Men.
In Epiphany we celebrate:
- The Presentation of the Gifts to Jesus – revealing the destiny of the glory of Christ in his life, death and resurrection by Gold (King), Myrrh (Embalming Ointment for Death) and Frankincense (Incense to praise God).
- The Baptism of Christ – revealing the glory of the Son rising from the Jordan with the Holy Spirit for his ministry on earth.
- Turning Water into Wine – John 2 – Jesus’ first miracle, revealing the glory of His reign by turning water into wine – the ordinary into glory.
- Healing the sick – Jesus destroys the unclean spirits revealing his power and glory. Or from the words of our great Christmas carols, Epiphany and Liturgy:
Hail the heaven born – Prince of Peace, Hail the Son of Righteousness. Life and Light to all he brings, risen with healing in His wings; mild He lays his glory by, born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Kings shall fall down before Him, and gold and incense bring; all nations shall adore Him, His praise all people sing; (Ps 72)
Hail to the Lord’s Anointed
Manifest at Jordan’s stream, Prophet, Priest and King supreme; and at Cana wedding guest in thy Godhead manifest; manifest in power divine changing water into wine.
Songs of Thankfulness and Praise
How does the Church express this?
- In Music (Sound)
Christmas and Epiphany are times of celebration. Hence we now revert to singing the Gloria instead of the Kyrie. The hymns are about the birth of Christ, the coming of the Wise Men and signs and glory of His Kingdom.
- In Art (Sight)
The colours of white and gold are used as the signs of the Glory of God in Jesus Christ. The vestments and the colourful hangings reflect this.
Flowers are used. As the Kings brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, some Churches illustrate this using gold colourings; incense and ointment. All three symbols are deeply embedded in scripture and tradition.
- In Words (Sound)
Our readings above express the meaning of Christmas and Epiphany. They speak of the way God can transform our everyday lives into ones which demonstrate His Kingdom here on earth.