Epiphany has several cultural variations

Posted On January 6, 2007

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What do these names have in common, The Feast of the Epiphany, Three King’s Day, The Adoration of the Magi, The Manifestation of God and Theophany?

Depending on cultural traditions, they are names used for the Christian celebration of Epiphany, which comes from Greek and means “manifestation,” or “appearance.”

Epiphany,¬†celebrates the arrival of the three magi, or wise men, bearing gifts to the place of the Christ child’s birth to acknowledge him as lord and king. In some traditions, the 12th night of Christmas is observed with feasting and special king’s cake.

According to Christian tradition, Caspar, Melchior and Balthaser saw a bright star on the night that Jesus was born and followed it to Bethlehem, where they presented the Christ child with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Epiphany, which is celebrated on the last day of the 12-day Christmas season that began December 25, has its own traditions, rituals and symbols that include removing Christmas decorations, gift-giving, community tree-burning, caroling, prayers, burning dried herbs and sprinkling a doorway with holy water. Some Eastern-tradition churches celebrate January 6 as the day marking Jesus’ birth and then Theophany on Januar 19.

In some Western Christian churches, the season from tomorrow to Ash Wednesday is known as Epiphany, while others observe Epiphany as a single day, with the Sundays following named “ordinary time.” The last Sunday of Epiphany or Ordinary Time, which could be anywhere from four to nine Sundays depending on the timing of Easter, is celebrated as Transfiguration Sunday.

Faith United Lutheran Parish will hold an Epiphany celebration at 7 p.m. tomorrow in Barren’s Lutheran Church, 232 Kralltown Road, Dillsburg. Festivities will include gathering around a bonfire of undecorated, once-living Christmas trees, singing and fellowship. People planning to attend should dress appropriate to the weather and take folding chairs and flashlights. Undecorated Christmas trees may be taken for the bonfire. For more information, call 432-4802.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Sixth and Chestnut streets, Lebanon, will celebrate the epiphany of Jesus with a candlelight procession starting at 4 p.m. Sunday. During the service of Scripture readings, hymns, psalms, chants and anthems, the St. Luke’s Festival Choir will move from creche to baptismal font to altar. This procession celebrates the manifestation of Jesus’ glory in Bethlehem, Jerusalem, baptism, Cana and the New Jerusalem.

William Tyndale’s struggle to translate the Bible into the language of his day will be presented through a drama, “his words, HIS WORD” at 1 p.m. Sunday in an 2007 Arts Alive culture series program at Derry Presbyterian Church, 248 E. Derry Road, Derry Twp. Dan Neidermyer wrote and directed the drama for the Lancaster-based Marantha Production about a time in 16th-century England.

Tyndale had fled his rural home in western England in the early 1500s for refuge in Cologne, Germany, during the Reformation, where he began to translate the New Testament from the original Greek. The project took 10 years. Erik Nelson, an actor from Lancaster, will portray Tyndale, a role he has played more than 200 times.

A free lunch will be served at noon in fellowship hall. Lunch reservations may be made by calling the church office at 533-9667.

Two seminary courses will be offered by the Evangelical School of Theology of Myerstown at Messiah College, Grantham. Kirby Keller will lead “The Church at Worship” from 6:45 to 9:30 p.m. Thursdays, starting Jan. 25 and continuing through May 3. The course offers a study of biblical and theological principles of corporate worship, church’s liturgical history and development of a theology of worship for a local church within its faith traditions.

“Historical and Poetric Books” will be led by David Dorsey from 6:45 to 9:30 p.m. Mondays starting Jan. 29 and continuing through May 7. This course relates to Israel’s history from the period of the Judges to the return from exile as it examines the literary structure and style, major themes and critical issues of each book. For information, call 800-532-5775.

The Rev. William Harter, pastor of Falling Springs Presbyterian Church of Chambersburg, was honored by the American Jewish Committee with its Isaiah Award for his outstanding achievement in interreligous affairs. Harter, credited as a leading advocate for Israel in the Christian world, was praised for his dedication to dialogue between Christians and Jews and his efforts to undo the attempt of the Presbyterian Church USA to divest investments in Israel.

He has led many Christian missions to Israel and participated in the committee’s Solidarity Mission in September. Previous recipients include Billy Graham, Martin E. Marty, the late Cardinal John O’Conner, Thomas E. Bird and Cardinal Edward Idris Cassidy.