I hear that January 6th is some sort of anniversary. That’s right, it’s the Feast of the Epiphany, that glorious day, 12 days past Christmas when those amazing “wisemen” arrived from the East to bring gifts to the Christ child.
For Catholic Christians, once Christmas day arrives, we begin to celebrate the epic event of Jesus’ incarnation for the next few weeks. Because this is such a pivotal moment in the history of the world, we can’t celebrate for just one day. Once again, Catholics strain against the rest of the crowd that will immediately move on as soon as the clock flips to 12:01 a.m. on the 26th of December. The world begins preparing for New Year’s Eve! Christmas is over for the vast majority of non-believers. But in my faith we will only begin singing carols on Christmas eve and we’ll sing them for days afterwards during the true Christmas season.
Life is tough for Catholic Christians any time of year. We are thought of as, at best “old fashioned,” at worse or superstitious nuts. But then Jesus never said it would be easy. In fact, He promised that “in this world you will have trouble.” So we are not surprised to find very few people are continuing to rejoice with us and maybe think we’re kind of weird. But we will celebrate anyway, and we’ll (hardly ever) complain. We are always encouraged knowing that Jesus also promised to always be with us! The title that the angel Gabriel gives Jesus, Emmanuel, means “God with us!” And so of course He still is.
While Christmas Eve, or the “vigil of Christmas” as it’s known in some circles, is the suggested time to bless the creche, given that we’ve just reached the 12th Day of Christmas, there’s still time! In fact, we should keep the nativity scene up through Three Kings’ Day or Epiphany; it occurs on the Twelfth Day of Christmas. Maybe you’ve heard of it?
I love to contemplate baby Jesus lying in a manger, surrounded by barn animals, his mother and foster father gazing down on his little figure, along with shepherds who’ve been alerted by a host of angels of the Savior’s arrival. And then there are the wisemen, (who actually probably didn’t show up for about a year after Jesus’s birth, but nevertheless are often depicted in this scene). The magi‘s visit is rightfully associated with the Incarnation. They signify the rest of the world, beyond Judea, that will come to worship the King.
Of course, there is always at least one angel standing guard. I’m pretty sure that the “host” of angels who appeared to the shepherds in the fields were all present for the big kick off for the culmination of humanity’s salvation story that is Christ’s life, passion, death, and resurrection. Let us all take the magi as our example to always adore the Lord Jesus, offering Him the gifts of our best selves and our best efforts.
Have a blessed Feast of Epiphany, everybody!