Just When You Think It’s All Over – Epiphany

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We have just said goodbye to Christmas for another year and now the shops are beginning to stock up on Easter eggs! Yesterday many Christians would have attended an Epiphany Service in church. The word ‘epiphany’ is from the Greek, epipháneia, meaning a manifestation or an appearance. To have an epiphany, means to have a revelation, and that is exactly what happened when the Magi or the Kings from the East delivered their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the child Jesus. They had a full realisation of the significance of Christ’s birth, that he was indeed a very special King, and each of their gifts prophetically symbolised a role Jesus would adopt during his ministry.

GOLD was the gift for a king. In the ancient world it was the custom that no one could ever approach the king without bringing a gift. And since gold is recognised as the king of metals, it would be the most appropriate gift for a king. Jesus was born to be king, but he reigned simply through his decree of love, not from an elaborate throne surrounded by worldly riches but through his sacrifice of love in dying for us on a rough wooden cross.

FRANKINCENSE was the gift for a priest, because in those days temple worship was enhanced by the perfume of incense. The role of a priest was to lead people to God. The Latin word for priest is pontifex, which means a bridge-builder. The priest was a person who acted as a bridge between people and God. Jesus opened the way to God; he made it possible for us to cross the divide and enter into a personal relationship with God.

MYRRH was the gift for a dead person because it was used to embalm the bodies of the dead. Jesus came into the world to live for humanity, and, in the end, to die for humanity. He gave his life for us on the cross so we could be set free from the penalty of sin. So, all of these gifts from the Magi, that we remember at Epiphany have great significance, they foretold that this child was to be the only true King, the great High Priest, and in the end, the Saviour of the world.

This painting is by Holman Hunt and is called ‘The Shadow of Death’, I use it quite often to explain the use of symbolism. It portrays Jesus in the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth. He is pictured as a young man stretching up after a hard day’s work cramped over a carpenters bench. He stands with his arms outstretched, behind him on the wall, the setting sun throws his shadow, it is the shadow of a cross. His mother Mary is kneeling down at an open chest in which she has kept safe the gifts from the Magi. Gold for a king, frankincense for a priest, myrrh for a dead man – strange gifts to give to a child!


Study the picture carefully it is full of symbolism, see what other symbols of Jesus’ life and death you can recognise. Think about the Magi bringing gifts to Jesus and think what you might bring. I love this Christmas poem by Christina Rossetti that was set to music, you might want to use it as a prayer.

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone.

Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,

In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain.

Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.

In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed

The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,

Breast full of milk, and a manger full of hay;

Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,

The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,

Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air.

But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,

Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb.

If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part.

Yet what can I give Him: give my heart.


This is Ish’s version of the visit of the Magi if you would like to watch it on You Tube