As a lifelong Episcopalian, I recognize today, January 6, as The Feast of Epiphany, the end of the twelve days of Christmas and a celebration of the revelation of God to mankind in human form, in the person of Jesus Christ. It is a time we say goodbye to baby Jesus and look ahead to his life and ministry.
Epiphany in Western Christian churches commemorates the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child, and thus Jesus Christ’s physical appearance to the Gentiles. In Eastern Christian churches, it is often called Theophany and focuses more on Jesus’s baptism in the Jordan River and his identification as the Son of God.
The lovely manger scene pictured above was given to my husband John by his Aunt Mamie—”Sister”—over seventy years ago. Every year, it holds a prominent place in our “Christmas Room,” where it represents the core meaning of our Christmas celebration – the birth of the Christ Child on Earth and in our hearts.
Gone but not forgotten
It is now time to put the manger scene away, and I treasure the ritual. As I wrap each figure lovingly to put it away until next year, I take the opportunity to reflect on the role each figure played in the story: the angel, Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds, the Magi (or Wise Men)…and yes, even the animals: sheep, a cow, a camel, and a donkey. I reflect, too, on the miracle of Christ’s birth and the millions of faithful, practicing Christians over two thousand years later, all because of a single man’s ministry that is thought to have spanned little more than three years.
The baby Jesus is the last figure to be wrapped. As I lay Him gently in the box, I say a prayer that the light of His life and love will always burn brightly in my heart, my thoughts, my words, and my actions. So simple, yet so profound…
Rituals are sacred connections
In a very real sense, rituals and traditions are special—even holy—connections with those touchstones of our heritage and our faith, whatever that heritage and faith may be.
What rituals and traditions are meaningful to you at this time of year? I’d love to hear them in the Comments section below, or join the conversation at my Facebook Page.
Photo credit: John A. Cottrell, Jr., M.D.