What is it about Epiphany?

Weekly Reflection, Friday, January 7

By: Lauren Clay

While growing up, my parents didn’t celebrate or know anything about the feast of the Epiphany celebrated on January 6. Years later in college, during my western European studies, you can imagine my surprise when I discovered the various traditions of Epiphany in the wider Christian world. Many colloquially know it as “Three Kings Day,” referring to the three magi, or kings, who journeyed from the east, following the star to the newly born Christ child. Over the years since my own “epiphany” on the Epiphany, my kids and I have embraced some of the numerous Epiphany traditions, such as an Epiphany house blessing, and wearing paper crowns while searching for the plastic baby Jesus in our slices of Rosca de Reyes or King Cake. Since the magi came bearing gifts, many cultures save the big gift exchange for Epiphany rather than Christmas, making it an even grander celebration than Christmas itself.

What is it about Epiphany that gets the Christian world so excited and filled with such rich traditions? And why does it get its own liturgical season? In fact, there are three epiphanies that are celebrated throughout this season: the arrival of the magi, the baptism of Jesus, and the wedding feast at Cana. These three realizations or manifestations of Jesus’s divinity point to the mind-blowing miracle that is Christmas! What is the point of Christmas if it wasn’t God himself becoming flesh to dwell among us? THIS is why we celebrate Epiphany!

I wish that I could say our family celebrated this Epiphany with the same fervor and excitement as in years past, but no. The paper crowns never came out. The trip to La Sabrosita Bakery to buy a King Cake never happened. In fact, I think I am most excited to finally take down my Christmas tree and get my house back to “normal.” Despite my doing nothing for Epiphany, except writing this reflection, and trying to get back to “normal,” I simultaneously realized that life will never be the same or “normal” in the wake of that first Epiphany. The great miracle has happened, whether or not we are celebrating; all of us have been redeemed through God’s unfathomable love for us.

So, on this very low-key Epiphany, I think of the last stanza of Christina Rosetti’s famous poem, “In the Bleak Midwinter”:
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

I pray that I can at least give Him that.