Epiphany is the church calendar day that celebrates the visit of the wise men to Jesus (Matthew 2:1-12). It is commemorated on January 6, twelve days after Christmas Day. It also marks the end of the twelve days of Christmas.
Should Christians celebrate Epiphany/Three Kings' Day? What is it?
The word "epiphany" simply means a revelation or manifestation. The Epiphany celebrates the revealing of Jesus Christ to Gentiles (non-Jewish people) as represented by the wise men. Luke 2:32 spoke of this as well, calling the baby Jesus, "A light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel."
The earliest known reference to Epiphany in church history is found in the writings of Ammianus Marcellinus in 361. In 385, Egeria (also Silva) wrote of Epiphany as being practiced among churches in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. History notes that Western churches also celebrated the baptism of Jesus and the miracle at the wedding in Cana on the same date in the early church, though this is no longer the case today.
Should Christians celebrate Epiphany? It is certainly appropriate to commemorate the wise men coming to worship Jesus. However, there have been many non-biblical traditions added to Epiphany in various cultures that a believer would be wise to avoid.
Among concerning practices found associated with Epiphany include the sprinkling of "holy water" and the burning of "blessed" herbs. These superstitious practices have nothing to do with the coming of the wise men to Jesus and stand in conflict with the practices of the New Testament Christians.
Another concerning practice sometimes seen includes prayers to the magi. This idea stands clearly at odds with Scripture. Jesus taught His followers to pray to, "Our Father in heaven" (Matthew 6:9). He would later add that they were to pray in His name (John 14:13-14). At no point in Scripture are believers taught to pray to another person other than God.
Regarding the celebration of Epiphany marking the coming of the wise men to Christ, however, one may choose to celebrate or not to celebrate. As the apostle Paul notes, "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31; see also Romans 14:5-6).
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