How the Story of Epiphany Informs my Faith

In the traditional Christian calendar, today, January 6, is the celebration of Epiphany.

Epiphany is the revealing of Jesus as the Son of God to people on earth. It comes upon the completion of the story of Jesus’ birth with the visit of the three magi from the East who honor the newly born Jesus with gifts and recognize Him as the true King of the Jews (Matthew 2:1-12). These three stand in for the whole world in recognizing Jesus’ unique place as Emmanuel, God with us.

The carol associated with Epiphany, “We Three Kings of Orient Are,” is probably my favorite song of the whole Christmas season. Since I was very young, I could feel the sway of the camels who carried the wise men day and night while they kept their eyes fixed on the star leading them ever onward to Jesus.

There is not a whole lot of agreement on who exactly these three foreigners were. The Greek of the New Testament is directly translated into English as, “Magi,” which can mean wise men, priests, astrologers, or dream interpreters. This makes them sound a bit mysterious and intimidating, like Albus Dumbledore from the Harry Potter book series, to me. By the Middle Ages, the magi had become kings and separate stories became attached to each one. What is agreed upon is that the magi, or kings, were definitely not Jews.

Despite the fact that the magi kings worshiped foreign gods, not the Creator of all and God of Israel, they were certainly better at seeking and honoring Jesus, our Redeemer, than Herod was. In the New Testament, they are the first of many people considered outside the tradition of Scripture (and often treated as an abomination by other believers) who turn out to be able to see and serve God among us better than those settled within the faith of the Hebrews.

So what is the primary point of the story of Epiphany?

I believe that it is this: Jesus reaches far beyond being the King of the Jews to being Sovereign over all the earth. Jesus is the Star, the perfect Light, for all people.

The prayer in the United Methodist Hymnal right by “We Three Kings” reflects this very well. Laurence Hull Stookey writes

O God,

You made of one blood all nations,

and, by a star in the East,

revealed to all peoples him whose name is Emmanuel.

Enable us who know your presence with us

so to proclaim his unsearchable riches

that all may come to his light

and bow before the brightness of his rising,

Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

now and forever. Amen.


What do you think is the meaning of Epiphany?


Reverend Janet Edwards

10 Responses
  • Jennie Mills on January 2, 2014

    My family has always celebrated Epiphany. Similar to those who celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25th. When i tried to explain what i remember from childhood people looked at me like i was crazy. My mom and dad gave us one special gift on Jan. 6th and it was always something I look forward to. We still give each other Oranges and Nuts as I was told it was a sign of giving health and wealth to your family friends and neighbors. I was always interested in learning more but before computers it was hard to look up. So thankyou, for showing its not just something we made up!

  • Patricia on March 2, 2016

    Dear Uncle:This is the golden ckaest containing the relics of Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, the three magi who visited the baby Christ with gold, frankincense, and myrrh.( Myrrh? What’s that? It’s a type of balm. A bomb? What’re you bringing him a bomb for? )When I was in Cologne, I got out of the train station, and looming up there right in front of me was the Cologne Cathedral. I went inside and hung around for a bit, long enough to see this. Then I left, saw a street music performance, and got a beer.Kind regards,Thomas Masun

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