|Celebrate Epiphany with joy, renewal|
By Deborah White
Wearing crowns and singing "We Three Kings," children walk the halls of Central United Methodist Church in Albuquerque, N.M., searching for Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. When they find the baby, they sing, "Oh come let us adore him."
The Epiphany celebration annually attracts 60 to 80 children, all eager to act out the story of the three wise men from Matthew's gospel.
"The trek through the church is the thing they love -- finding the baby Jesus like the three kings (did)," said Christy Albright, director of Christian education. "They understand the story better because they have lived it."
This is one of many ways churches celebrate Epiphany with joy, excitement and spiritual renewal. Epiphany, on Jan. 6, marks the coming of the wise men to the manger. In Latin America, the day is observed as Dia de Los Reyes or Three Kings Day.
"Epiphany is a major feast in the life of the Christian year and a major feast of the manifestation," said the Rev. Taylor Burton-Edwards, director of worship resources for the General Board of Discipleship.
The symbol of Epiphany is light. It is a time to absorb the message of Christmas and to spread the light of God's love through Jesus.
Epiphany celebrations -- festive or contemplative -- are a good way for churches to launch the new year. Some plan outreach activities from Epiphany until Ash Wednesday.
In the Southwest Texas Conference, Bishop Joel N. Martinez called for prayer and fasting during this period in 2007. Church leaders said practicing spiritual disciplines transformed their congregations.
"Prayer changes everything," said the Rev. Tina Carter, pastor of The Rock United Methodist Church in Cedar Park, Texas.
"Sometimes we put so much energy into the period before Jesus, into the wrapping, that we forget to do the unwrapping of both Jesus and ourselves," said the Rev. Bernard Ritchea, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Edna, Texas.
Spiritual renewal filled Epiphany 2007 in the Dakotas Conference, which sponsored a January clergy retreat.
An Epiphany feast has been celebrated for 30 years at the Office of Loans and Scholarships of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry in Nashville, Tenn. "It has become a joyful tradition," said Angella Current-Felder, executive director of the office.
Epiphany rituals are important, said the Rev. Mary Alice Gran, director of children's ministries for the General Board of Discipleship. "Frequently there is such an emphasis on planning Christmas we have that let-down feeling."
Here are a few Epiphany ideas:
Hold a day of renewal with a baptism, baptismal renewal or renewal of marriage covenants, Burton-Edwards suggested. Celebrate Holy Communion.
Stars and gifts are symbols that work well with all generations, Gran said. Stars can be part of almost any game, including a search for references to stars in scriptures and hymns. A gifts theme can emphasize doing things for others.
The General Board of Discipleship's Worship Web site at www.gbod.org/worship includes many Epiphany resources.
Gran recommends two books: Seasons of Faith: Teaching the Christian Year by Marcia Stoner. [Abingdon Press, www.abingdonpress.com, (800) 251-3320] and Teaching & Celebrating the Christian Seasons by Delia Halverson, [Chalice Press, www.cbp21.com, (800) 366-3383].
--Deborah White is associate editor of Interpreter.
Rachel L. Toalson of the Southwest Texas Conference
communications team contributed to this story.
*Article originally published in the Nov/Dec2007 issue of Interpreter