Western Christians will be celebrating Epiphany on Sunday, though Eastern Christians (with whom Epiphany had its origins), who go by the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian calendar, won't celebrate it until Jan. 19.
In Western churches, it's customary on Epiphany to tell the New Testament story of the the arrival of the magi, the so-called wise men who brought gifts to the Christ child, thus setting the pattern for American overspending at Christmas. To read a Western (and Catholic) explanation of Epiphany, click here. In Eastern churches there's more Epiphany focus on the Baptism of Jesus. Here's a piece on why Jesus was baptized.
The word epiphany, of course, now is widely used to mean a sudden realization. In effect, Christianity would say that's what the incarnation of Jesus was -- God being suddenly realized in human flesh.
I mention all this today simply to make the point that lots of Christians have become unstuck from the liturgical calendar. Which is to say that many of us don't think much about whether this Sunday will be Epiphany or Trinity Sunday or something else. Catholics, Anglicans and the Orthodox certainly are better about this than Protestants. But any Christian can lose a sense of the cycles and rhythms of time when detached from the seasons of the church year.
There are some variations, depending on which branch of the church universal you happen across, but just so you know, generally, the liturgical seasons in Western Christianity are Advent, Christmas (which ends with Epiphany), the Ordinary Time after Epiphany, Lent, Easter and the Ordinary Time after Pentecost.
Memorize that list and you can impress all the friends you see at the endless rounds of Epiphany parties.
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'I SING BECAUSE I'M DYING' (to the tune of "His Eye Is on the Sparrow")
Despite mediocre reviews, "Les Miserables" is doing well at the box office, Religion News Service reports, at least partly because it's become so popular with evangelical Christians. Hmmm. Wonder why evangelicals like movies where people with so-so voices sing almost every word, even when they're kicking the bucket. Seems like an odd attraction to me.
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P.S.: The folks putting together the presidential inauguration have announced plans for a national prayer service the morning of Jan. 22 at the Washington National Cathedral. They say the tradition for this service dates back to George Washington. President Obama and Vice President Biden will attend. My guess is CNN and other TV news channels will carry it.
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ANOTHER P.S.: I mentioned here the other day that my friend and former Kansas City Star colleague Helen Gray was retiring as religion editor. That happened Friday. Here's the story that appeared in the paper Saturday. Bon voyage, Helen.