Day of Atonement, Passover, Epiphany

The Day of Atonement, Passover, and Epiphany may seem like three strange Feast to be linked together when talking about the birth of Jesus.  Bear with me as I explain their connection.  

I know it is a good thing that God is a “God Who hides Himself” and did not give us exact dates for everything that occurred.  “He concealed things” so we could search them out.  Luke or Matthew could have given us “better” timestamps but Holy Spirit stopped them.  But Luke did give us some very important calendar dates.

Time

Jewish timekeeping is different than Western thought, it was started by God in the Garden.  (another post on time) The Biblical day starts in the evening and goes to daylight.  This thought is consistent in the Bible as there are many examples of things going from dark to light.  The Jewish religious month is lunar-based; they would add an extra month when needed to keep them in line with the revolution of the earth.   In the Book of Leviticus, the major feasts are set in this framework of months.

Day of Atonement

This important day, for the Jews, of fasting, prayer, and repentance is explained in Leviticus 16.  In Leviticus 23: 26 its time is given as the tenth day of the seventh month.  In Luke we find Zachariah, John’s father, doing the offering of incense behind the Veil in the Second Temple.  Luke 1: 23 had him finish “his time of service” before going home.  This possibly was until the end of the month, so he was with Elizabeth in the eighth month.  She stayed secluded for five months.  (I am not trying to do days or exact times, those belong to God!)

Passover

Luke 1:26 has the “sixth month” for Mary’s visit with Gabriel.  That should be the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, which makes it the first month of the Jewish year, the month of Passover!  The Father is a God of order.  It would seem fitting to “birth” Jesus in Mary at Passover. That would put Jesus’ “coming out party” with the angels and shepherds in the December/January time frame (Julian Calendar) of the month of Tevet.  (see the calendar below)

Epiphany 

From ancient times (before the fourth century) the 6th of January has carried special importance in the Church!  Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his Testament to Freedom, pgs. 504-5 talks about Epiphany.  I read it in a compilation called God is in the Manger.  On page 90, he talks about four events associated with that date – the birth of Jesus, His baptism, the wedding of Cana, and the arrival of the Magi. Traditions are frequently built on fact.  Some of these I will not try to defend or deny, but it sure is interesting.  (Again, I am not trying to be dogmatic in writing this.)

Tevet is the Jewish tenth month.  The root of the word comes from tov or nine.  The meaning of the word is “good”.  If you look in Psalm 119: 65 – 72, the ninth section of that acrostic psalm you will find the idea of good four times in the NIV. (I did an alternative to how Psalm 119 is written.)

Matthew, in his telling of the Christmas story, injects that the Wise Men had seen the star two years earlier (Herod killed the babies two and under.).  He gives no timestamp, but if it was on Jesus’ birthday (Passover) when they found Him, it would fit. 

Okay, I will go out on a limb here, because I know the Father is a God of order!  Jesus’ return with Mary and Joseph from Egypt should have been at the same time as the Exodus (Passover).  I will inch a little further out and say that Jesus’ baptism with John coincided with the anniversary of the “baptism” of the people in the Red Sea. 

The wedding at Cana – I am clueless!  John was writing about proofs of Jesus’ divinity when he wrote on the Seven Miracles (or the Plus One I added), not about dates and times.  

For you scholars out there, I have not researched any of these thoughts on Epiphany!  It may well be that someone else has already come up with the same ideas!  I like the way they fit together, and it gives me a reason to reflect on Epiphany.  One day in Heaven I will have to ask how close I was to being correct.   

Christmas – The Wise Men

Christmas – The Wise Men

Epiphany, the day the Wise Men show up to worship Jesus. It marks the end of the copy-wisemen-2.jpgTwelve Days of Christmas (See Epiphany or Three Kings Day) and in some countries, it is celebrated with as much enthusiasm as December 25th. Matthew 2: 1-18 record the story in the New Testament (See Magi and Herod for OT verses). Matthew, who starts with Joseph’s family line, continues telling the story from “Joseph’s viewpoint.” (The angelic dreams and his reactions.) Even if you combine Matthew and Luke’s narratives there are a lot of unanswered questions. I guess there should be but we can look at what we know.

Mary and Joseph being good Jewish parents fulfill the requirements of the Law with the trip to the Temple. There they receive blessings and prophecies to settle both Joseph’s and Mary’s fears and doubts. For us, facts are added like Luke stating, “they went to Nazareth and Jesus grew” while Matthew tells the story of the Magi and the trip to Egypt all starting from a “house.” But I have a feeling that times and locations are not what is important here.

The Magi or Wise Men were the scholars and learned men of the day. They counseled kings and influenced decisions. They are found in Daniel and other books of the Bible like Ezekiel 21: 21 checking the “liver” for the king so he knows which way to go. What they represent in the Christmas story is huge. These are Gentiles/heathen (us) acknowledging Jesus and his kingship. They are the college professors of the day following their studies and observations looking for a baby that was talked about in Jewish scriptures. It was no little trip for them to show up in Judea looking for a king, several months of travel were required and the supplies and then the gifts. I would guess it was not just three guys on camels it may have well been a caravan(s) with guards and servants. Were they sent as a diplomatic envoy?

Plus them showing upset Herod off so that the prophecies in Jeremiah 31:15 and Hosea 11:1 would be fulfilled – Herod killing the babies and Jesus coming out of Egypt.

Epiphany or Three Kings Day

This is the last day of Christmas or the 12th day of Christmas (January 6th).

Have a great 2013.

wiseman 3A devotional for Epiphany is on this website: http://www.cresourcei.org/cy12days.html

Regardless of the origin of this idea, a number of Christians give the following meanings to the gifts:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Twelve_Days_of_Christmas_(song)

 wisemen 2
What is the religious symbolism of the 12 days of Christmas?
Here is one rendition on what the religious symbolism is for the Twelve Days of Christmas:
1 True Love refers to God
2 Turtle Doves refers to the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens refers to Faith, Hope, and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds refers to the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings refer to the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the “Pentateuch”, which gives the history of man’s fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying refers to the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking refers to the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing refers to the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping refers to the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping refers to the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming refers to the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s CreedSource: http://www.carols.org.uk/

I got the above information from the website http://www.12days.com/faq.htm