The first half of the season of Epiphany completes Christmas beginning of the day of Epiphany itself, 6th January. It ends on 2nd February with Candlemas and Joseph and Mary taking Jesus to the temple for Mary’s purification Rights and Jesus’ Dedication.
If you turn up your Scottish Prayer Book you will find the day we know as Epiphany referred to as the Revelation of Christ to the Gentiles. It is the day we recall those Magi from the east arriving with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Matthew, the only Gospel writer who tells this story, tells us that the Magi first went to Herod’s Place. Herod fearful of what a new king would do to his own power, sent the Magi on their way with a request that they come back and tell him where they find this new born king. However, the Magi are warned in a dream not to tell Herod, Herod gets mad and orders the killing of all male children who might have been born in the period of Jesus’ birth and Mary and Joseph take Jesus to safety in Egypt. Within this story old testament prophecies are woven as the central theme of revelation, not just to some, but to all people, is told.
The Season of Epiphany continues with the greater Christmas season of revelation beginning with Jesus’ Baptism, followed by a collection of different stories which vary during our three year lectionary cycle but all following the theme of what is expected from a Messiah, who Jesus begins to fulfil those expectations and; what now happens to John the Baptist, the one who prepared the way.
These 40 days end in the Temple, with Simeon and Anna pious Jews completing the revelation to all kinds of people, from all walks of life and all places. In the fulfilling of the Jewish customs and traditions of purifying a woman after giving birth, and offering the proper sacrifice to God for a first born son. The circle is complete, while others from outside and afar see Jesus in awe, so too do those of unquestionable Jewish heritage. Epiphany then changes tone. At the end of the Candlemas Gospel we hear of Simeon warning Mary what is to come.
Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’Luke 2:34-35
The wonder of Christmas and Epiphany shifts to the reality of having God with us and among us. While there is much joy, there is also much sacrifice. While any and all can believe, there are consequences to believing that may not sit comfortably at first. The season of Epiphany ends with the Transfiguration another wonderous sight.