The Mission of Veritas Academy is to cultivate loving, serving, thinking students. We try to accomplish this mission in a way that is consistent with five core values. One of the core values of Veritas Academy is that we are a tradition affirming school.
Traditions are unimportant rules that when followed correctly protect and preserve the most important things in life—that is, the essence of a quote I read several years ago but have never been able to find again. I am a lover and keeper of many traditions. If my family or one of my classes enjoys something together it often becomes a “tradition” which we hope will preserve the idea to be repeated again the following year. If we successfully keep this “tradition” a second time it is likely to continue and be looked forward to for many years to come.
Many rich and meaningful traditions are built into the church calendar. This calendar was developed over centuries to mark time in a Christian manner and remember the most significant truths and events of Christian history. Calendar traditions vary from country to country, region to region, and church to church. Most churches represented by the families at Veritas Academy rightly make a big deal out of Christmas and Easter celebrations. Many of our local Anabaptist brethren place additional emphasis on Good Friday and Ascension Day. Most Christians have heard of the seasons of Advent and Lent. However, there are a few other significant church holidays that have fallen out of practice and deserve to be revived.
Epiphany, celebrated annually on January 6, is a holiday with ancient roots and a rich history. It is one of the oldest holidays on the Christian calendar, predating the earliest December 25 Christmas celebrations by at least a century. Epiphany is a celebration of Christ’s light being manifest to the world, specifically the gentile world, which for most of us is OUR world! The visitation of the Magi from the east, bearing gifts for the young child Jesus, is used as a fitting picture of the worship of Christ by the gentile world. Jesus was born in a specific geographic location, to a specific group of people, but He came to save the whole world. He came to extend his light across the globe and save you and me! That is what we remember and celebrate on Epiphany.
In some ancient churches, Epiphany was a celebration of the birth of Jesus, the adoration of Jesus by the Magi, and sometimes His baptism and His first miracle. When the date for Christmas was moved to December 25, the season of Christmastide, also known as the 12 Days of Christmas was established… over a millennia before the trite English Christmas carol that we all know too well. The 12 days of Christmas begin on December 25 and end on January 5, the eve of Epiphany. Epiphany could be rightly viewed as the climax or culmination of the Christmas season and many of the traditions associated with it follow that theme.
A simple way to mark Christmastide and Epiphany with your family is by having a little more fun with your nativity scene. Begin on Christmas day with the Magi somewhere in your home, but far away from the manger, perhaps on the other side of the room or a different room entirely. Each day of Christmas move the Magi a little closer to the manger until they finally arrive 12 days later on Epiphany. We usually move our magi at night after the kids are in bed and they have fun finding their new location the next morning.
Some classes at Veritas have a small manger set up with wise men that have been moving around the room as we approach January 6. There is also a silhouette of a camel and 3 kings bearing gifts that has been mysteriously moving down the hallway towards the Bethlehem bulletin board posted outside of the 6th grade classroom.
As a faculty we are also planning some fun Epiphany activities for this Friday that we hope will bring the celebration of Epiphany alive for our students, and help them reflect on the light of Jesus coming as a gift to the whole world. Who knows, maybe some of these fun ideas will become Epiphany traditions?
Here is what we have planned:
All students K-12 will be allowed to dress up fancy for Epiphany if they choose. Boys can wear dress shirts with ties, bowties, jackets, or other fancy kingly attire. Girls can wear beautiful dresses and other royal accouterments. The goal is to have fun and remember the foreign royalty that visited child Jesus bearing gifts. The most royally dressed secondary students will be chosen during our secondary school devotion time on Friday morning and be crowned the “Magi for the day” with special privileges and responsibilities.
Grammar school classes will incorporate some sweet treat or King cake into their Epiphany celebration. King cakes are a popular Epiphany dessert often baked with a plastic or porcelain baby figure hidden somewhere inside, representing baby Jesus. Traditionally, the person who receives the slice with the trinket receives a special prize or responsibility. We will use our sweet treat to select three “Magi for the day” from each 1st - 6th grade class. These young Magi will have the privilege of wearing a crown for the rest of the day and the responsibility of delivering gifts to the grade level below their own, like the biblical Magi brought gifts to young Jesus.
“And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.” Matthew 2: 12
In my perusing of different Epiphany traditions and ideas I came across the suggestion that on the way home from an Epiphany celebration it is meaningful to drive home by a different route than that by which you came. Grammar school teachers are hoping to give students a memorable way of remembering the Magi’s circuitous route back to their homeland by intentionally avoiding the shortest, most obvious path to their normal destinations. Instead of walking down to 6th grade, turning 90 degrees and marching down to the cafeteria for lunch, students will find an alternate route that may lead them through the courtyard or around the outside of the building doing their best to avoid King Herod who may make an appearance outside the Jerusalem classroom
The next two years Epiphany will fall on the weekend. This provides the perfect opportunity for you incorporate an Epiphany celebration into the life of your family and the life of your church. There are a lot of good and meaningful ideas for celebrating Epiphany. Do some reading and plan some celebrating.