Epiphany is a tradition that has been lost in many circles, over shadowed by Christmas and New Year’s. Epiphany is the 12th day after Christmas (thus the song) and is actually a more ancient tradition that the Christmas celebrations. Epiphany means “manifestation,” or “revealing” and now has become the time when we focus on the visit of the Magi some weeks after the birth of Christ.
Several churches that I have been in do the “magi in bathrobes” thing, with lay folk coming in during the singing of “We Three Kings” and presenting gifts. It’s a bit hokey, but it does provide some connection with the story.
Basically, the meaning of the service today should focus on gift giving, most specifically, the gifts that we bring to God’s kingdom. It can be a good time for a recommitment ritual (such as Wesley’s Covenant prayer). Given the situation in Asia today, I am planning on using our communion offering as a way of asking folks to offer financial gifts for the work of God’s kingdom in Asia.
Since this is a familiar story, creative ways of reading the scripture are important. Paraphrasing might be helpful, or using a translation like “The Message.” In my church, we normally have a special Children’s Message immediately following the scripture. What I am going to do tomorrow is conflate those two elements and re-tell the story in my own words to the kids, knowing that the adults will probably get more out of it than the kids.
Observing an Epiphany Sunday is a great way to wrap up the Christmas season as we move back into ordinary time.