By Amanda Highben
The Manifestation of Our Lord
“Epiphany means ‘manifestation.’ On this day (January 6) we celebrate the revelation of Christ to the Gentiles-that is, to all nations. Some Christian traditions celebrate three great epiphanies on this day: the magi’s adoration of the Christ child, Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River, and his first miracle in which he changes water into wine. The word and sacraments are for us the great epiphany of God’s grace and mercy. We go forth to witness to the light that shines brightly in our midst.”
-Sundays and Seasons, Year A 2014
In my January 2012 Chimes column I wrote about the ritual of “Chalking the Door,” a ritual that is traditionally done at Epiphany. Since it’s been a little while since then-and because I don’t expect you to reread your old issues of the Chimes!-/ thought it might be worthwhile to repeat here what I wrote then and to encourage you again to consider performing this blessing in your own homes. We read in Matthew’s Gospel that when the magi witnessed Jesus’ star stop over the place in Bethlehem where he was born, they were “overwhelmed with joy,” and “on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage.” Just as the wise men entered the house and encountered the Christ child, so too do we believe that Christ is present as we welcome (expected and unexpected) visitors to our homes.
It’s fitting, then, to engage in a ritual of blessing to ask God’s grace to fill our homes so that all who dwell within those walls and visit there will know Christ’s compassionate, bold light which we celebrate at Epiphany. In addition to a prayer of blessing and the reading of a scripture passage, a visual blessing is inscribed above the main door with white chalk (in keeping with an eastern European tradition). For example, the inscription for 2015 would be “20 + CMB + 14.” The numbers reflect each new year and the three letters either stand for the ancient Latin blessing Christe mansionem benedica (Christ bless this house), or the names believed to belong to the magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. If you’d like to bless your home this january, please let me know and I can provide you with a copy of this brief, simple service.
We also remember, however, that joseph, Mary and Jesus had no home in Bethlehem, no safe place of comfort and warmth when it came time for Jesus’ birth. Homes are a blessing from our gracious God, and we know there are far too many people who are homeless or who struggle to keep their homes through no fault of their own. As God’s children we believe we are called to advocate on behalf of such as these, to offer our financial gifts, and to support legislation that helps individuals and families to own and keep their homes. And we pray, “God of light and compassion, whose Son became poor for our sake: Help us to see the face of Christ in those who are poor, and in serving them to serve you” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, pg. 79).