What Are the 12 Days of Epiphany?

Barbara Leeman  and David Leeman
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After Christmas, the church calendar enters twelve days of Epiphany. These conclude on January 6. A dictionary defines an epiphany as a sudden manifestation or perception of the nature of something, or an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure. To have an epiphany is to say, “Aha!” or “Oh, I get it!” or “Now the light dawns!” That is what we should experience on the other side of Christmas.

Christmas Day is typically a school and work holiday, as well as a day for exchanging gifts. People then assume it concludes at midnight of December 25. Soon we put away the decorations and return to our routines of life. Except for a lighthearted song about the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” few know there is more to celebrate. Never mind the 1,500-year-old church tradition

of continuing the season for twelve days. Perhaps we should leave our decorations up for several days into the New Year to help remind us of Christ’s birth.

During Epiphany, we consider the coming of the wise men to see Jesus, even though they probably visited the child months or even years after Jesus was born. Yet the visit of these non-Israelites reveals that Jesus was born for the Gentiles as well as the Jews. He is Messiah for the entire world.

Just as the star illumined the path of the wise men, so God sheds light into our hearts to guide us to Him. Just as the wise men stood in awe and wonder so that they “fell down and worshiped Him,” we too should consider the coming of Christ in awe and wonder. We too should bow in humble submission to this One whose birth we have celebrated.

Like the wise men, we bring our best to God in Christ, at least in one sense. In another, perhaps more important sense, we bring our worst—our sin, our guilt, our brokenness. As the eighteenth-century hymn writer Joseph Hart put it:

Come, ye weary, heavy-laden, Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry ’til you’re better, You will never come at all.


Lo! th’ incarnate God ascended, Pleads the merit of His blood: Venture on Him, venture wholly, Let no other trust intrude.

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
Oh, there are ten thousand charms.[1]

So forget about the two turtledoves or the partridge in a pear tree. Instead, spend the twelve days after Christmas arising and going to this Jesus. Don’t think on the “charms” you can bring. Expect instead the ten thousand charms and embrace the life eternal He has for you.

[1] Joseph Hart, “Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Need,” 1759, Timeless Truths, https:// library.timelesstruths.org/music/Come_Ye_Sinners_Poor_and_Needy/.

For Further Reading:

Hosanna in Excelsis

by David and Barbara Leeman

Enrich Your Christmas with the Sounds of the Season Music has always been central to celebrating the coming of Christ into the world....

book cover for Hosanna in Excelsis