Epiphany & Candlemas

Photo by Rebecca Peterson-Hall on Unsplash

We’re in the weird week between Christmas and New Year’s. It means a break from school and sometimes work. It can mean a time of reflection on the year past and preparing for the year ahead.

When I was a kid, my good friend had this long skinny thing that they hung on their kitchen doorway at Christmastime. It was made of cloth and had numbers, I think 1-12, along with string at each number to tie on a small gift. It was like a “Twelve Days of Christmas” thing, where starting twelve days before Christmas, she would open one small gift each day. I thought it was the coolest thing. I can’t, for the life of me, remember what they called it. I knew about Advent calendars, but they didn’t call it anything related to Advent. Anyway, for several years after having kids, I would go to the Dollar Tree and buy twelve gifts for my three girls, wrap them up, and let them each unwrap one gift per day leading up to Christmas.

A couple years ago, I was looking at a calendar and wondered exactly what the holiday called Epiphany meant. I had heard of it, or at least seen it on calendars, but never really knew what it was. It turns out the “Twelve Days of Christmas” with the twelve little gifts should technically be done after Christmas, during Epiphany.

So what, exactly, is Epiphany?

Epiphany is also known as “Feast of the Epiphany” or “Three Kings’ Day.” Some Eastern traditions call it “Theophany.” Most of the research I did differentiates between Western and Eastern (Eastern Orthodox Church) Christian traditions.

A basic summary of Epiphany is the time between Dec. 25th and Jan. 6th, which is the official “Twelve Days of Christmas.” Kids get gifts in their shoes in some traditions, over this time, or on Jan. 6th – the day of Epiphany in the West. This time period is recognized as the time the Magi or Wise Men or Kings came to visit Jesus. I learned several years ago that the Wise Men weren’t at the birth of Jesus. The Bible even states that they came to see Jesus when he was young, probably a toddler, and in a house. (Read Matthew chapter 2) This means that our traditional nativity scenes with Wise Men (which the Bible doesn’t even say how many there were) are not correct. I have heard people say, when they learned this, that they put the Wise Men somewhere else in the house, not with baby Jesus. Some people even slowly move the Wise Men closer over the span of time from Christmas to Epiphany to symbolize this more accurately.

So in the Western traditions, Epiphany is celebrated Jan. 6th and commemorates the Magi coming to give honor to Jesus as evidence that Jesus also came for the salvation of the Gentiles (not just Jews). The evening before Epiphany is called “Twelfth Night.” Many places have pastries on Epiphany and kids get gifts in their shoes.

The Epiphany holiday originated in the Eastern traditions, where it included celebrating Jesus’ birth (i.e. Christmas). The East celebrates on Jan. 19th. They more often call it “Theophany,” (which means a visible manifestation to humankind of God), as they focus more on celebrating the incarnation of God and the manifestation of Christ as both fully human and fully God. They therefore commemorate Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River (Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22) and his first miracle at Cana in Galilee (John 2:1-12) as representation of Jesus’ divinity. They also recognize Jesus’ manifestation to the Gentiles by way of the Magi visiting and honoring Jesus. Water is involved in many celebrations, representing Jesus’ baptism, such as blessing houses with holy water.

Celebrating Epiphany leads me to the little known holiday called Candlemas. Candlemas is also known as “Presentation of the Lord,” “Presentation of Christ in the Temple,” or “Hypapante.” In my research, it sounds like it is mainly Roman Catholics that recognize Candlemas, which is probably why I hadn’t heard of it.

Candlemas is celebrated Feb. 2nd, 40 days after Christmas. This holiday recognizes when Jesus’ mother, Mary, (and Joseph), in obedience to Jewish law, took Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to present him to God, and Mary to be purified after the birth. (Luke 2:22-40)

The earliest reference to this holiday was from Jerusalem in the late 4th century, where it was celebrated Feb. 14th, 40 days after Epiphany. (In that time, Epiphany was also the celebration of Christ’s birth.) (Maybe this is where the merging of Jesus’ birth with recognizing the Wise Men coming to honor Jesus came from in our modern symbolization of the nativity with Wise Men.) In 542, Justinian I moved the date to Feb. 2nd, 40 days after Christmas. In the mid-5th century, celebrating with lighted candles became the custom, thus the name Candlemas.

In the West, Pope Sergius I (687-701) instituted the observance in Rome. It was primarily a celebration of of the Virgin Mary, calling it “Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” But now it is called “Presentation of the Lord.”

In the East, it is mainly a festival of Christ. The Anglican Church calls it “Presentation of Christ in the Temple.” The Greek (I think Greek Orthodox) church calls it “Hypapante,” which means “Meeting.” This is in reference to the aged Simeon meeting the young Jesus in the Temple in Jerusalem.

It is this last meaning of the Greek church that resonates most with me. I love that it was prophesied that Simeon wouldn’t die until he had met Jesus – God in the flesh. Commemorating this meeting seems so special as we try to wrap our heads around how overjoyed and honored and in awe Simeon must have felt in being able to meet our Savior. Even though Jesus was just a baby, Simeon knew Who he beheld.

I hope you found this post interesting and informative, and maybe you want to recognize or celebrate the “12 Days of Christmas,” Twelfth Night, Epiphany, or Candlemas. This time of holidays (Dec. 25th-Feb. 2nd) recognizes Jesus’ birth, the coming of the Magi to honor Jesus (recognizing Him as the Savior of the Gentiles), the presentation of Jesus at the Temple and Simeon’s meeting of Jesus.

In celebration of the first coming of our Savior Jesus,

When Love Came Down

Photo by Greyson Joralemon on Unsplash
[Note: This was a Christmas devotional I originally wrote in 2014 as a guest post on a friend’s blog. I decided to publish it here this Christmas season.]
 

We think of Christmas as a time for being extra nice, spreading cheer, and perhaps opening our wallets to give to those in need.  Those are all wonderful acts of love.  For those of us who follow Christ, those things hopefully come from an overflow of a heart that has been filled and transformed with Love. 
 
I would like to take a few minutes this Christmas season to reflect on a different perspective.  I suspect it is an angle of Christmas that is not thought of often: the risk
 
Love is a choice.  Without the freedom to choose to love, it is not true love. 
 
When He chose to create human beings, He decided to love us more than we can fathom.  Because He loves us, He wants our true love in return.  That means that He had to make us with a freedom to choose to love Him back
 
Think about God on the cusp of Christ’s birth that first Christmas.  To be about to give the biggest gift of Love to humankind.  Ever. 
 
I think of Him partly as a parent, Who is so excited for Christmas because they are about to give their kids exactly what they wanted, plus more, and can’t wait to see their delight and hugs of appreciation. 
 
But then there is the risk factor.  Have you ever thought of the risk, the gamble, if you will, that God took in creating humans with free will?  What if the Gift is rejected?  What if it is soon replaced by something else seemingly bigger and better?  Is this display of Love going to be worth it? 
 
God rejoices exuberantly when someone chooses to receive His ultimate gift of Love.  At the same time, His heart is broken and grieving for those who choose to reject His Love. 
 
The gift of the tiny Babe in a manger is the ultimate expression of Love.  I hope you have received Him!  This season, think also of the risk God took for you…and for everyone else.  Praise Him for His saving grace.  Return His love by your faith and obedience.  But also pray fervently for those you know who have rejected His Gift.  The gravity of that might break your heart, too. 
 
Like the star that the wise men followed to get to Jesus, may we shine like stars to point others toward God’s love“…you are seen as bright lights (stars or beacons shining out clearly) in the [dark] world…” (Phil. 2:15 AMP)  “For we have seen His star in the east at its rising and have come to worship Him.” (Matt. 2:2 AMP).
 
Who do you know that needs to receive God’s gift of Love?  Commit to pray for them.

 

 
What can you do to spread God’s love?

 

 
Do your attitudes, actions, and words shine in the dark world as examples of His love?
 
With His Peace, Love, and Joy,
 
 
 

What Blessings Do We Have In Christ?

This is the (edited) start of an article I wrote on the “Satisfaction Through Christ” blog on November 16, 2016. I am sharing the articles I wrote there with my blog readers. To finish reading this article, click the link at the bottom of this post.

What blessings do we have in Christ? There are certain blessings that all believers have in the spiritual realm. I’m part of a Facebook group that was just discussing how misused or misunderstood the words “anointed,” “favor,” and “blessings” are today. I think so many times we tend to think of blessings as immediate, physical, carnal, or temporal (in the here and now, which actually is temporary). But God’s idea of blessings are spiritual. We are rich and blessed precisely because of the spiritual blessings in Ephesians 1:3-14.

My husband and I are part of a small group at our church, where we are studying the book of Ephesians. I had to share these spiritual blessings here as well!

<Click here to finish reading the article.>

Keep reading your Bible!

Breaking the Image

This is part of an article I wrote on the “Satisfaction Through Christ” blog on November 2, 2016. I am sharing the articles I wrote there with my blog readers. To finish reading this article, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

I’m reading through a chronological study Bible. It’s the second time in my life I’ve undertaken to read the whole Bible. I’m struck by different events and things that aren’t talked about much, even sometimes having forgotten those things happened.

One such event is in 1 Samuel 5: The Philistines and the Ark. Israel and the Philistines had a fight and the Philistines had captured the Ark of God. Here is part of the account (vs. 2-8):

Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon. And when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. This is why the priests of Dagon and all who enter the house of Dagon do not tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.

The hand of the Lord was heavy against the people of Ashdod, and he terrified and afflicted them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territory. And when the men of Ashdod saw how things were, they said, “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for his hand is hard against us and against Dagon our god.” So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel?” They answered, “Let the ark of the God of Israel be brought around to Gath.” So they brought the ark of the God of Israel there.

Each city the Philistines took the Ark to had some sort of calamity, so they were quick to get it out of there!

In verses 2-5, though, was the biggest impact in my mind. Dagon was one of the Philistine gods. My study Bible says Dagon was the deity of grain, taking care of the fertility of the land and populace, protecting the area from human and divine encroachment, and took care of the royal family.

So the Philistines seized the Ark of God during battle and brought it into their shrine or temple for Dagon. See, they believed that when they defeated an enemy in battle, it also meant defeat of the enemy’s god. So when they defeated the Israelites, they believed their god Dagon was stronger than Yahweh, God of Israel. So they sat the Ark beside their image of Dagon.

The first morning they got up and went to the temple and found Dagon on its face on the ground in front of the Ark of God. I wonder what they thought then.

They picked it up and set it back in its place.

The next morning, back they go to the temple. What do they find this time? Dagon had fallen on the ground before the Ark of God again, only this time, its head and hands were broken off.

This was God saying, “You have not defeated Me! I AM. Dagon is just a silly stupid statue. Because you messed with Me, you’re going down!”

<Click here to finish reading this article.>

Keep reading your Bible!

Stand Firm :: A Review of “War Room” the Movie

This is the first part of an article I wrote on the “Satisfaction Through Christ” blog on October 12, 2016. I am sharing these articles here on my blog. To finish reading the article, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Last week, I watched the movie War Room with our small group at church. I had read beaming reviews and I had also read warnings about it promoting contemplative prayer. So I decided to guardedly watch it. I braced myself for viewing an hour of Priscilla Shirer sitting in a closet meditating and chanting. The story line was more involved. However, aside from the somewhat predictable plot and cheesy acting, I was left with not one, but three problematic portrayals in this movie.

Unfortunately, I know this movie reflects Priscilla’s theology and doctrine, so I don’t recommend her books and teachings. There were probably a couple of good points in the script, but this flick is one that shouldn’t be sought after.

Here are the three problematic points, which were all central to the movie:

  1. Lack of Biblical modesty
  2. Contemplative prayer
  3. Rebuking the devil

Let’s look at each of these and what Scripture says.


First, we usually think of modesty as not dressing too provocatively. While that’s true, I’m referring to another side of modesty. In the movie, Priscilla’s family lives in a huge house, driving very nice vehicles, and they are all dressed to the “nines.” At church, everyone is looking at everyone else with that judging look. The women comparing themselves and the husband looking too long at another woman. By the end, they’ve all gotten “closer” to God and the man has put an end to his wandering gazes. However, the other things about their life haven’t changed.

It’s okay if we have wealth. But to flaunt it, brag about it, parade it in people’s faces, that’s not okay. We will all be judged by how we steward God’s gifts to us.

“…likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness – with good works.” 1 Timothy 2:9-10 ESV

Respectable apparel and modesty would indicate not dressing provocatively. The braided hair, gold, pearls or costly attire would indicate what the upper class women would have worn to show off their wealth. (Braided hair listed here isn’t forbidding braiding your hair, it simply meant back then, that women with braided hair were well enough off to have servants who braided their hair for them.)

How many times do we dress to impress other women? Or, how many times have we coveted what someone else has? It all takes our eyes off God, the Gospel, and good works. This is an issue of the heart and motives.

In today’s language, this verse could say, “…not with Michael Kors handbags, Gucci sunglasses, 2-karat (each) diamond studs and a GMC Yukon Denali…” That stuff isn’t bad in and of themselves. But when we’re focused on them, our appearance, flashing them around, posting pics of them on Facebook, and even making it seem like we’re “more spiritual” because “look what God has blessed me with!” we’ve gone wrong.

I love that self-control is thrown in this verse. Use it to repent and refocus. Aside from the rottenness of causing someone to stumble in envy, who cares about the handbag… when there’s a new mom in your church who could use a meal for her family? What about the elderly lady who lives down the street and needs a ride or her sidewalk shoveled? What about volunteering in the nursery? What about the Gospel message that can be shared?

Anyway, the movie showed this family with wealth that likely few of us “regular people” could relate to and it wasn’t reigned in, even when the husband lost his job. Even setting aside the material possessions, the movie was self-centered, using God like a genie to get blessings they wanted. There was no portrayal of good works or spreading the Gospel.

<Click here to finish reading this article.>

Keep reading your Bible!

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