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On the 12th Day of Christmas…

The twelfth day of Christmas is January 5th,

the last day of the traditional Christmas season. It serves to usher in the next church season — that of Epiphany. Historically, Epiphany was much more widely celebrated in Christian churches than was Christmas.

Epiphany is not a word used in the Bible, but it does convey a  Biblical concept. Epiphany (from the Greek word epiphaneia) means “manifestation” — or a “showing forth.”

This season of the church year varies in length but lasts until the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.

During the Epiphany season Christian churches often communicate three events in Christ’s life in particular: the visit of the Magi, His baptism, and His first miracle at the wedding of Cana.

The Magi Visit

In what way was the visit of the Magi an epiphany?

The Magi were “wise men” belonging to a priestly sect from the East. Contrary to what is often depicted, they were not present at Jesus’ birth. Rather, they followed a star to Jesus’ house and there knelt down to worship the “young Child” and presented Him with precious gifts from their homeland.

As was prophesied in Isaiah, “The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.…They shall bring gold and incense, and they shall proclaim the praises of the LORD” (60:3,6).

In this way Jesus was manifested as king of both the Jews and the Gentiles. He was the “Star of Jacob” (Numbers 24:17) and the “Rod from the stem of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1)

Jesus’ Baptism

How was Jesus’ baptism an epiphany?

John the Baptist said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

At Jesus’ baptism the Trinity was on display. The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus like a dove, and the voice of  the Father confirmed Jesus to be His Son in whom He was well-pleased.

Unlike John, who could baptize with water only, Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit. This event marked the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, His public “showing forth.”

Jesus’ First Miracle

The word miracle is overused in our society today — from a “miraculous” catch in a football game to the “wonder” of a baby sleeping through the night. True miracles can be performed only by God. The New Testament records at least thirty-seven miracles of Christ.

Only the Gospel of John records the “beginning of signs” at the wedding in Cana (See John chapter 2). Jesus changed over one hundred gallons of plain water into “good wine.” This epiphany of Jesus manifested His glory to His disciples, after which, we are told, they “believed in Him.”

Like all Jesus’ miracles, this first one was performed to help people and to strengthen the faith of His followers.

Perhaps Jesus’ greatest miracle was the fact that His love for lost sinners brought Him to Earth to live, suffer, and die in our place, thus redeeming otherwise lost and condemned sinners from their sins.

The length of the Epiphany season varies, depending on the beginning of the Lenten season. This year it is a bit longer than usual.

During this season let us focus on this wonderful gift our “True Love” gave to us in the manifestation of our Savior Jesus Christ.