The Feast of the Epiphany


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Saturday, January 6 is the Feast of the Epiphany (in the West, anyway), when we celebrate the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child, signifying the manifestation of God to the Gentiles. (Before the coming of Christ, of course, God’s main concern was for his chosen people, the Jews.)
Even if the Visitation of the Magi story isn’t literally true, its theological truth stands: God reaches out to all people everywhere.

If Epiphany doesn’t fall on a Sunday it will usually be celebrated on the first Sunday after Jan. 6. Special prayers, liturgies and music have been written for this day. Readings might include the story of the Magi from Matthew 2, and passages from the OT such as Isaiah 60. You guys probably know them all.

My very favorite Epiphany carol is the hauntingly beautiful Three Kings from Persian Lands afar by Peter Cornelius, sung here by the famous King’s College, Cambridge chapel choir of men and boys.

The Lyrics are:

  1. Three Kings from Persian lands afar
    To Jordan follow the pointing star:
    And this the quest of the travelers three,
    Where the new-born King of the Jews may be.
    Full royal gifts they bear for the King;
    Gold, incense, myrrh are their offering.

  2. The star shines out with a steadfast ray;
    The kings to Bethlehem make their way,
    And there in worship they bend the knee,
    As Mary’s child in her lap they see;
    Their royal gifts they show to the King;
    Gold, incense, myrrh are their offering.

  3. Thou child of man, lo, to Bethlehem
    The Kings are travelling, travel with them!
    The star of mercy, the star of grace,
    Shall lead thy heart to its resting place.
    Gold, incense, myrrh thou canst not bring;
    Offer thy heart to the infant King.