The holy day (holiday) will be celebrated on Jan. 8 at the Fruit Heights congregation, the last of the Christmastide services which the Rev. Neal Humphrey said are used “to teach about the Gospel and the identity of Christ.”
Christmastide, which begins on Christmas Day, generally runs through Jan. 6, marks the 12 days of Christmas of carol fame.
Jan. 6 is known as Epiphany, the day many Christians celebrate as the day the three magi brought their gifts to the baby Jesus.
Humphrey said that Epiphany is one event which focuses on the three ways God in Christ Jesus is revealed.
The first, he said, is at the nativity when the angels herald his birth.
The second, Humphrey explained, is at Jesus’ circumcision, when Simeon, a just and devout man of Jerusalem, greeted the infant Jesus upon his presentation at the temple.
And the third ,is the visit by the magi.
“We use these three Sundays (this year Christmas Day, Jan 1 and Jan. 8) to teach about the Gospel and how the Bible reveals to us the identity of Christ,” Humphrey said.
Churches which mark the baptism of the Lord generally celebrate it the Sunday after Jan. 6.
Humphrey said at Westminster, holy communion will be offered on Sunday, Jan. 8, at the church’s one service at 9 a.m.
Normally, communion is served only on the first Sunday of the month. Humphrey will also wear a white chasible, a liturgical vestment he wears only on major church holy days.
Even many Christians today don’t celebrate the full Christmastide activities.
Humphrey said that goes back to the Protestant mindset following the Reformation which disavowed anything which could be connected with the Roman Catholic Church,
“In Jamestown anyone caught celebrating Christmas was fined a shilling for being too popish,” Humphrey said. He said that the United States Congress even met on Christmas Day for its first 60 years.
Humphrey said Christmas wasn’t celebrated much among Protestants until after Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol,” was published.
But centuries before the Protestant Reformation, Christmas was every bit as big of a deal as it is today.
Humphrey said that in William Shakespeare’s time, Christmas was definitely celebrated. It is believed Shakespeare wrote his play “Twelfth Night” as a close to the Christmas season.
Still, many churches do not celebrate Epiphany or the Christmastide season. “Those who don’t are following the culture. They are letting the culture dictate what they teach, rather than the historical church,” Humphrey said.