Friends, I pray this has been a merry Christmastide for you and yours.
On Wednesday the season comes to a close with the Feast of Epiphany (AKA the Feast of Three Kings, AKA the Feast of the Magi, etc.)!
Just what is this feast and why should we keep it?
Epiphany remembers the magi’s visit with Jesus and His family. I do not know about you, but even as a child my eyes glossed over the story of the “Three Wise Men.” It seemed like an extraneous Christmas chapter shoved in at an awkward angle. In our church pageants, the magi were always made to be ridiculous characters in outlandish clothing (I DESPISE shiny, gaudy material and, in our dramas, these guys were regular divas). I also thought it was a little hokey that “wise” folk would strut around in so much finery when other people were hungry and unhoused. Heck, Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus had to stay in a stable, for crying out loud.
Call it early signs of the Millennial syndrome, but the whole magi story seemed bogus for most of my growing up. And then I simply paid it no mind.
This Year has been different. At the start of Advent back in November, the glittering night sky began to gain and keep my attention. Moving light, dancing candles, and twinkling stars were mysterious little heralds of the coming Lord.
They themed my waiting and wonder during the season. As follows, the stars drew me to the magi’s story.
God began telling it to me in a new way.
Thanks be to God for God’s redemptive work in the world and in my own story—even scripture is recast, resewn, and reimagined. God graces us with epiphany.
I think it was actually my husband who commented that the magi, who were more wizardly than kingly, are for us.
Us. They reveal that Emmanuel is for us—us Gentiles, Foreigners, People Far Off.
The odd and meandering story of the magi reveals that God was on the move outside of Israel just as She was inside of Israel. God is in the East as He is in the West. God whispers to the stars as God whispers to those who ponder them.
God is for the Gentile, the magician, the scholar, the traveler, and even the weirdo dressed in the polyester cape.
Emmanuel—“God with us”—all.
How to Keep the Feast
In learning more about the church Year, I have been SO amazed by the creativity and imagination of my saintly siblings from ages past. They may have fasted hard, but they partied harder. And for the best reasons I can conceive.
WHEN? The evening of Jan. 5th-the evening of Jan. 6th
In the Liturgical Year and Jewish calendar, days begin at nightfall. Therefore, many folks begin their Epiphany celebrations on the evening of January 5th. This is called Twelfth Night. I think we are going to try that this year because we will be at church Wednesday night.
HOW? Here are some ideas to commemorate God's gracious welcome as witnessed by our wizardly kin...
1. Let Magi Roam
There are still just a few more of the #TwelveDays left. Let your magi get some traveling in before making their way to Jesus. Our three have had quite a time of it this Christmastide.
Let your inner child smile. It's fun! And, honest to goodness, the practice has kept my head and heart in this Christmas season (sometimes celebrating can take more effort than waiting or preparing for it).
On the Eve of Epiphany/Tuesday night, make a show of the magi finally making their visit with the Holy Family. Or just slip them back and see if anyone notices. Or, if you have young ones in your midst, you could let the magi accompany them through the...
2. Holy Graffiti: A Traditional House Blessing
Because the magi came bearing blessings from afar, the blessing of the home has become tradition for Epiphany. I think this is a lovely idea for any household. Perhaps I am especially excited about it this year because it will be the first official blessing sought for our new home!
The blessing most popularly consists of a short prayer service and the chalking of the threshold (holy graffiti, batman!). The prayers ask God to make the home a place of welcome for God, stranger, and friend. The chalking is simply a fun way to commemorate our wizardly brothers' visit to Jesus; we literally mark the occasion.
The tradition is to inscribe the following somewhere on the threshold of your dwelling:
20 + C + M + B + 16
Yep, you just mark that little equation-looking message on your doorway. It fits nicely within the following prayer service. Click on the photo to download a PDF version of the House Blessing. Feel free to share at will!
After the Blessing of the Home, make your way inside for a feast complete with...
3. Magic Magi Travel Bread
Awesome Epiphany celebrations include, so I am told, German Kings’ Cake. From what I gather, Kings’ Cake is a ring of sweet rolls topped with icing. The circle represents how the magi had to go out of their way on their return trip in order to avoid Herod (there's a sermon in THAT detail, amiright?). Sometimes people hide an almond or a real ring inside one of the rolls. Whoever finds the almond/ring is royalty for the day.
We are going to attempt an interpretation—monkey bread!
It is customary in my family to have monkey bread during Christmas, but somehow we have not enjoyed the scrumptious delight this season. Here’s my chance.
Check out this beautiful recipe for a more traditional “King’s Cake” here and a “Monkey Bread” recipe similar to my family's. Enjoy!