Epiphany, or Theophany as it is referred to in the East, falls on this day and marks the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas.
The term Epiphany means "to show" or "to make known" or even "to reveal." In Western Catholic and Protestant churches, it commemorates the coming of the Wisemen - who by bringing gifts and visiting the Christ child, "reveal" Jesus to the world as Lord and King.
How many of us as children loved the song of "The Little Drummer Boy" (perfect for the Twelfth Day of Christmas!) He too wanted the "finest gift to bring" to the Newborn King. I have given this board book version of Ezra Jack Keats' book to several little ones for Christmas, and their Mommies have told me they ask for it to be read (or sung) to them again and again...
You may have heard of Henry Van Dyke's short novel, The Other Wise Man - (if not you can read it HERE on Project Gutenberg) - but did you know there is a children's picture book version? Henry Van Dyke wrote his enduring classic, The Other Wise Man in 1896. Pamela Kennedy retells the story for the young reader, making it easy to understand, while retaining the magic of Van Dyke's words. Robert Barrett's rich oil paintings create a tapestry of colour that adds to the mystery of the ancient world.
Another exceptional picture book about the Magi and their gifts is The Third Gift, by Linda Sue Park. My book review of The Third Gift can be found here.
In my Eastern Orthodox tradition, the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child is commemorated on Christmas Day. For us, Epiphany commemorates Jesus' baptism and the divine revelation of the Holy Trinity.
The word Epiphany in Greek means "to show forth" and is used interchangeably with the word Theophany, which translates from Greek as "appearance of God".
At the baptism of Christ the Holy Trinity appeared clearly to mankind for the first time -- the Father's voice is heard from Heaven, the Son of God is incarnate and standing physically in the Jordan, and the Holy Spirit descends on Him in the form of a dove.
A hymn that will be sung in our church service today is a wonderful reminder of God's presence with us today and everyday:
Today You appeared to the world,
and Your light, O Lord, has left its mark upon us
as in fuller understanding we sing to You:
“You came, You were made manifest, the unapproachable light."