Epiphany (Greek for epiphaneia, manifestation) is the holy day remembering Jesus Christ’s revealing to the world and has been celebrated since at least the mid-fourth century on January 6th. It remembers the revealing of Jesus as King and Messiah to the magi (and thus, to the Gentiles); the revealing of Jesus as the Son of God at his baptism; and the revealing of his ministry with his first miracle: turning water to wine at the Cana wedding.
Since the Middle Ages, people would go from home to home singing and enjoying each others’ hospitality. Using chalk, they would write the letters C+M+B on the doors or lintels of houses, blessing them as places of Christ’s hospitality.
The initials represent Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, traditionally the names of the three Magi, as well as the Latin phrase, Christus Mansionem Benedicat, May Christ bless this house. In the Anglican tradition, Epiphany begins its own season, Epiphanytide, focusing on the ways Christ is revealed to the world. The season ends on February 2nd, with the celebration of Jesus’ presentation in the Temple.
In researching the practice, I found out that there is whole tradition in Europe that celebrates Epiphany and the CMB blessing. It is called the Star Singers, or sternsinger. Over 300,000 boys and girls in Germany alone dress up as the Magi and sing from house to house raising awareness and money for issues regarding the suffering of children globally. Last year, they raised $48 million. This German movement is now in its 58th year and for 2016 is highlighting poverty in Bolivia under the motto “Respect – for you, for me, for others.”
If you are looking for a way to close the Christmas season, and look ahead into the new year, find some chalk and write the Epiphany blessing 20+C+M+B+16 above your front door as you pray for God’s blessing on your home and all who enter. Even more, gather some friends, kiddos, and family and chalk each others’ doors, praying and singing as you go! I will be inviting my seminary students to don crowns and carry stars, pray and sing, as they chalk the doors of the classrooms and offices. Maybe we can start Star Singing in our communities, bring some beauty, fun, music, and blessing, while raising awareness of the needs of children worldwide.