It was on the Sixth of January. If it was not apparent, you had one too, which is not to be confused with one two, but who’s counting?!

The term “epiphany” comes from the Greek word epiphaino, which is not to be confused with “heck if I know,” although they sound similar. Epiphaino means “to show” or “to appear” or “to make an appearance.” For western Christians, Epiphany is the festival day observing the arrival of the three Magi (wisemen or kings) to see the child Jesus after they had followed the star in the night sky. In this tradition, Epiphany means that Jesus is revealed to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi.

In the liturgical year, Epiphany also marks the end of the Christmas season, i.e. Epiphany comes on the 13th day after Christmas, after your true love has showered you with numerous gifts for the preceding twelve days. If your true love did not shower you with gifts on the twelve days of Christmas, that is a topic for another newsletter.

In German tradition, it was and is common to put one’s Christmas tree up only for the twelve days of Christmas. So, the tree went or goes up on Christmas Eve. Singing Christmas carols around the tree or playing instruments might also be done. Germans did and some still do use real candles instead of electric lights to illuminate the tree. So, when the candles were lit, it was common for a bucket of water to be close at hand. Things could get very precarious if the tree not only went up but went up in flames on Christmas Eve, and someone simultaneously kicked the bucket. To avoid such mishaps, in our house we use electric candles on the tree, which is erected on Christmas Eve and taken down on Epiphany.

From Scripture, we do not know why the Magi believed that the star which they were following would lead them to the one “born king of the Jews” (Mt. 2:2). As Matthew states in that chapter, the Jews already had a king, namely Herod. Maybe like Joseph, the Magi were informed about the star’s significance by an angel in a dream. Apart from the star, however, Scripture leaves us in the dark on this matter.

Nonetheless, the Magi arrive. They know whom they are seeking. They ask directions to find him. They have their baby gifts in hand, and off they go to Bethlehem. “And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh” (Mt. 2:11). Scripture does tell us that the Magi were indeed warned in a dream to depart without making Herod any the wiser. So, some of their journey was a dream vacation.

Matthew’s gospel begins with this story, Gentiles coming to worship the newly born king of the Jews. Matthew’s gospel closes with Jesus, the newly resurrected king, sending his disciples to teach all Gentiles and to baptize all those who come to faith in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19). In the intervening chapters, Matthew gradually moves his audience into a position to leave their Jewish-centric world view behind in order to reveal the gospel of Jesus Christ to the predominately Gentile world filled with pagan gods and beliefs.

It seems a daunting task for the early church to receive, and it was. It took centuries for Christianity to become a world phenomenon. From our perspective as western Christians, it seems as if we are again immersed in a world full of pagan gods and beliefs, even if those who hold to such do not consider themselves to be “religious.” Today, western society finds itself in this position, sadly, because it has foregone its teaching responsibility both in the home and in church.

For a generation or two or three, the church has failed to catechize its future generations with a goal to teach and preach the word of God as a matter of life and death, a reality reflected in Jesus’ own crucifixion and resurrection. It its humble way, St. Luke’s seeks to address this problem. This winter St. Luke’s Theological Academy (SLTA) is offering three courses, ten weeks each. The modules are: 1) Worship: What, How, and Why (17 January 7:00-8:30 pm), 2) Introduction to the New Testament (19 January 7:00-8:30 pm), and 3) Foundations of the Christian Faith (22 January 4:00-5:30 pm). The course fee for the first two modules is $25.00, and the third is free. You can register online on St. Luke’s website or with the church office.