January 2024 Newsletter

From Pastor Matt Nelson

The Forgotten Christmas

Have you already taken down your Christmas tree? I bet there is a good chance you have because most of us think that Christmas is over. But did you know that Christmas just begins on Christmas Eve (Dec. 24th) and continues for twelve days? Don’t stop singing those Christmas Carols just yet!

In these twelve days there are several minor festivals including the Feast of the Holy Innocents (Dec. 28th), in which we remember the baby boys who were murdered by Herod in his desperate attempt to assassinate Jesus. Another one is the celebration of the circumcision and naming of Jesus (Jan. 1st). The culmination of Christmas season (which may or may not have had “twelve drummers drummin’”) is the twelfth day of Christmas (Jan. 6th), a festival called “the Epiphany of Our Lord.” You may not even be familiar with this celebration even though it is the second oldest festival, following only Easter! SO What is Epiphany?

The name “epiphany” comes from the Greek word epiphaniea, which means “appearance.” It is a remembrance of the appearance of Jesus. John 1 calls Jesus the “light of the world” and describes how He came into the world. Because of this Epiphany (and Epiphany season which continues til Lent) is a season of lights. Thus, there is an ancient tradition of having an evening candlelight service (much like our Christmas Eve service) on this day.

Epiphany has also been called “Gentile Christmas.” Does this mean we get more presents and another feast!? I’d vote “Yes!”, but this is actually in recognition of when the wise men (magi) from the East brought presents to Jesus. We hear about this in Matthew’s Gospel account.

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem,…  And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:1,11, ESV)

This is quite an amazing event! It shows us that there were believers from a far off land, and they were Gentiles! And there praises were received by the LORD Jesus and shared with us in God’s Word.

Most of us in the Church today can’t claim to be from the bloodline of Abraham, but we learn here that Jesus was sent for us too. We see that God receives people from all nations when they come by faith in the promised Messiah, Jesus. This is an amazing reason to celebrate! So maybe next year we can all join together in extending the celebrations as we rejoice in God’s extension of grace in Jesus to the ends of the earth!

Merry Gentile Christmas!

View the January 2024 Newsletter here.