Losing Advent – Ignoring Epiphany by Keith Griffiths

Losing Advent – Ignoring Epiphany

Over the years Advent, Christmas and Epiphany have undergone seismic shifts. It is not just the commercial world starting to advertise Christmas in September that has led to the disappearance of Advent, but also the traditions inherited from the northern hemisphere that have impacted on the flow of the Incarnation Cycle.

It might make sense to encourage schools to present Nativity plays and Carol services when the term ends around 20th December, but it is quite something else when these are included in the calendar during November. The significance of such services in a local church is lost when it is the fourth such event for the children, and when the service of Carols and Lessons is presented on the Second Sunday in Advent, then followed by Carols by the Lake or similar community presentations.

Paula Gooder entitles her reflections on Advent; The Meaning is in the Waiting. Sadly, waiting is alien to our modern lifestyle that seeks instant gratification. Starting Christmas prematurely glosses over the essential nature of the first two Sundays of Advent when the focus is on the Lord who will come again in glory.

The Feast of Epiphany vanishes in the aftermath of the extended celebration of the month of Christmas which exhausts those who have the responsibility not just for the services of the church but also the extraneous occasions when civic organisations seek a minister.  This robs us of a vital reminder that Jesus did not come for the sake of the Church, but because God so loved the world. The Magi were not the lost sheep of Israel, but leaders from beyond Judaism who came in search of the One who came for the salvation of all people. The Feast of the Epiphany is a reminder that now the Church has the responsibility to carry that message of Gods love to all nations.

The final celebration in the Advent-Christmas-Epiphany cycle is the Feast of the Presentation on 2 February, forty days after 25 December. According to the Law, the firstborn son is presented in the Temple and dedicated to God in memory of the deliverance from Egypt. Jesus is redeemed by the offering of two pigeons, a concession to poor families who could not afford a sheep.

To lose Advent and to ignore Epiphany is to retreat into a pale celebration of the Incarnation without the responsibility to follow Jesus into the world where God is still at work today.

If you have comments or ideas to contribute to the Revision process, or if you have written locally inspired hymns or songs please do be in touch with us at prayerbookrevision@gmail.com

This is the third of a series of Updates on the Revision Process that will appear on this website on the first of  every month. Expect the next one on January 2016