Sermon: Octave of the Epiphany

Today we celebrate an unofficial and even suppressed feast day: the Octave of the Epiphany.

Octave means eight and this is the eighth day after the Epiphany. The octave was originally established by the church because certain events in the life of Christ and the church were believed to be of such significance that one day was not enough to celebrate. Feast days that grew to include octaves were Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and even local celebrations for local or patron saints. The symbolism behind the octave is a bit cloudy, but is likely tied closely with our rebirth in Christ (it is the same reason that baptismal fonts often have eight sides, as the eighth day of creation is considered the day we are created new through our baptism).

Along with these other feast days, the Feast of the Epiphany was given an octave. As you many know, the Epiphany is the day we celebrate the Magi coming and bringing gifts to Jesus. The importance of this event is that the Magi were gentiles, so in visiting and worshiping Jesus, God is revealed to the Gentiles. That revealing is what an epiphany is. A manifestation of God.

The Octave of the Epiphany was a celebration of this great event, but would be formally removed in 1955 from the Roman Catholic calendar. How and when if fell out of favor in the Anglican Church I am not certain. So why are we celebrating it today if it’s not official?

There is a chance that you and I may have come to worship the God of Israel, but it is likely – without the revelation to the Gentiles – that you and I would be worshiping dumb idols (if anything) instead of the One True God. Therefore, it seems to me that such a great event is worth celebrating for more than just one day. In that event it is made evident that this child in the manger is bringing us and not just the Jews our salvation. As Paul said to the Galatians, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The God of Israel has been revealed as the God of all.

That being true, then, what next? Jesus has been revealed to the world, so what now?

In our Gospel reading today, John the Baptist’s disciples saw Jesus passing by. After a brief conversation with John, they began to follow Jesus.

Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”

They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”

“Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”

Following the Epiphany of Jesus, His revealing to all humankind, we ask, “What’s next?” Jesus response, “Come and you will see.” It is an invitation to follow Jesus. To take to the road and begin a great journey. A journey of salvation, redemption, ministry, hope… life. There is no limit to the depth of this journey. The only question remaining for you is, “How far are you prepared to go?”

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