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The Big Deal of Epiphany

The twelve days of Christmas have come and gone and Epiphany is here! This Sunday we celebrate the baptism of Jesus with four baptisms. After Easter, Epiphany is the oldest feast of the church. In the ancient church Epiphany was the celebration of the birth of Christ and of his baptism.

It is a complicated process to translate equivalent dates from the ancient Julian calendar to our modern calendar, and there are essays galore you can read if you would like to understand the calculations. But, according to Clement of Alexandria writing in about 190, it was widely accepted in his day that Jesus was born on January 6 in the Twenty Eighth year of the reign of Augustus. The fascinating thing to me is that it was also widely accepted in the ancient church (and this is a tradition we have forgotten in the western church) that Jesus would have also have naturally been immersed by John on his birthday. For these early Christians the birth of Jesus was important in the celebration, but primarily because it foreshadowed Jesus' baptism, which was the real heart of the celebration.

And I can certainly understand why they were so fascinated by this portion of the story. In Jesus' baptism you hear the voice of God. The Spirit appears in the form of a dove. It’s an incredible moment. Epiphany is also called Theophany, which is Greek and translated means God revealed. My point is that this feast was a big deal.

And it still is a big deal. While it’s true that Epiphany songs have not been playing on the radio stations for the past month. It's also true that there are not many Epiphany parties, Epiphany trees or Epiphany ugly sweater contests. But, it is still a big deal because this Sunday we will join together as four people are adopted and marked as “Christ’s own forever.” When asked if we will support them in their walk of faith we will all say with loud voices, “We will!” We will also all gather and renew our baptismal covenant together. This is a big deal.

Happy Epiphany and see you in church.

Fr. Tom +



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