Patra Mueller, Family Life Minister
Today is January 6th when churches all over the world celebrate Epiphany! So, what exactly are we celebrating?
The festival originated in the Eastern Church, where it first included a commemoration of Christ's birth. In Rome, by 354, Christ's birth was being celebrated on December 25 and later, in the 4th century, the church in Rome began celebrating Epiphany on January 6 as the twelfth day of Christmas.
The name Epiphany comes from the Greek word epiphaneia, meaning “appearance” or “manifestation”, and refers to the manifestation of Jesus Christ to the world as he appeared to the wise men.
According to Ace Collins, in his book Stories behind the Best Loved Songs, in the 1800s, Epiphany was traditionally the day the Christmas tree was taken down and the children would get to eat all the candy decorating the tree and receive other gifts as well.
In an effort to help his nieces and nephews celebrate Epiphany and remember it’s true meaning, John Henry Hopkins decided to give them the gift of a song. He was a brilliant scholar and writer for a New York newspaper. And in 1857, he wrote them the beloved song we know as We Three Kings.
Hopkins did an excellent job painting a picture of the wise men and their passage through the desert in the first verse. Then the chorus, with its powerful cadence “Star of Wonder, Star of Night”, is a reminder to the wise men not give up during the arduous and perilous journey but to keep their eye on the guiding star leading them to the Savior. The next three verses describe the gifts that the kings brought and the final verse focuses on the King born to sacrifice his life on a cross. (Ace, 198.)
We three kings of Orient are;
bearing gifts we traverse afar,
field and fountain, moor and mountain,
following yonder star.
O star of wonder, star of light,
star with royal beauty bright,
westward leading, still proceeding,
guide us to thy perfect light.
Born a King on Bethlehem's plain,
gold I bring to crown him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
over us all to reign. [Chorus]
Frankincense to offer have I;
incense owns a Deity nigh;
prayer and praising, voices raising,
worshiping God on high. [Chorus]
Myrrh is mine; its bitter perfume
breathes a life of gathering gloom;
sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
sealed in the stone-cold tomb. [Chorus]
Glorious now behold him arise;
King and God and sacrifice:
sounds through the earth and skies [Chorus]
As we reflect on words of this beloved song and turn the calendar to 2021, there is a sense of hope and yet there is a looming sense that we still have a long journey ahead of us. Like the wise men, with each step, may we be drawn to the Christ Child as our source of strength courage and hope in the days and weeks ahead. Through his birth, death and resurrection, we have been given the GREATEST GIFT of all!