By Emily Huff —
Today is Epiphany which marks the Season of Light. In the church calendar, Epiphany comes after the 12 days of Christmas and lasts until Ash Wednesday which is the beginning of Lent.
For over a decade, our family has carried on a tradition for Epiphany using a beautiful liturgy around our table, and over the years, it has become one of my favorite gatherings.
Each year on Epiphany, the liturgy invites us to use a piece of chalk and to write on our door. This year, we will write the following on our doorframe:
20 C M B 20
This tradition of chalking the door has been around since the middle ages. Some connect the letters CMB to the kings Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar since Epiphany is the time when we remember the wise men visiting Jesus on this day. Some report that C M B stands for Christus Mansionem Benedicat which means “May Christ bless this house.” The numbers represent the year- 2020.
My friend Kristin Kinser wrote the following to welcome this season: “Christ’s first home was a humble stable where shepherds came, at the bidding of angels, to worship the newborn king. The wise men followed a strange star in order to worship the One who was more than worthy of the precious gifts they brought.
That was 2000 years ago. Now, the risen Christ lives in us. Our very lives are the places that Jesus makes his home. When we invite a guest into our house we have the opportunity to be Christ to them. Whether it is through the hospitality of a meal, a place to sleep, a listening ear, or a cup of sugar, we have the opportunity to share the heart of God with those who pass through our doors.
The tradition of “chalking the door” is a way of marking our homes, usually at the front or main entrance, with sacred signs and symbols as we remember those who have passed through our doors in the past year and ask God’s blessing upon those who will pass through in the coming year. Just as the wise men followed the star until they found Jesus, we pray that those who come into our home would also encounter Jesus.”
The following liturgy is offered as a way to participate in the meaningful tradition of “chalking the door.” My favorite part is when we stop to remember and name all the people we can remember who came through our doors in this past year and then we pray that our home would be a light to those who come here in the new year. It is a time to remember what St. Benedict said over 1500 years ago that “all people who present themselves should be welcomed as Christ.”
A Blessing of the Home
L: The Lord is with you;
C: And also with you.
All: Peace be to this house and to all who live, work, and visit here.
L: Let’s take a moment to remember the friends and family who have passed through our door during the past year and give thanks to God for them.
C: (say the names of friends and family who have visited)
L: The three wise men came to Bethlehem in search of the Lord. They brought to him precious gifts: gold to honor the newborn king, incense to the true God in human form, and myrrh to anoint his body, which one day would die like our own.
L: Let us pray. O God, you once used a star to show to all the world that Jesus is your Son. May the light of that star that once guided wise men to honor his birth, now guide us to recognize him also, to know you by faith, and to see you in the epiphanies of the daily experiences of our lives.
L: Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord — Jesus born of Mary — shall be revealed.
C: And all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.
All: As the Wise Men once sought your brilliant light, O Lord, so may we seek to live and work in your splendor.
L: O God of Light, bless this (our) house and this (our) family. May this be a place of peace and health. May each member of this family cultivate the gifts and graces you have bestowed, dedicating our talents and works for the good of all.
L: Make this house a shelter in the storm and a haven of rest for all in need of your warmth and care. And when we go out from this place, may we never lose sight of that Epiphany star.
C: As we go about our work, our study, our play, keep us in its light and in your love.
A Blessing of the Chalk for Marking the Door
L: Lord Jesus, through your Incarnation and birth in true human form, you have made all the earth holy. We now ask your blessing upon this simple gift of your creation — chalk. We use it as a tool to teach our children, and they use it as a tool in their play and games. Now, with your blessing, may it become a tool for us to mark the doors of our home with the symbols of your wise servants who, so long ago, came to worship and adore you in your first home.
People in turn mark the doorway with one or more of the symbols:
20 C M B 07
L: May we, in this house, and all who come to visit, to work, and to play, remember these things throughout the coming year. May all who come and go here find peace, comfort, joy, hope, love, and salvation, for Christ has come to dwell in this house and in these hearts. All: May we be Christ’s light in the world. Amen. (Copyright © 1999. The General Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church. Used by permission).
Heidi Haverkamp writes, “Receive every person who comes through your door as though they were bringing Jesus to you. Receive every person you meet as though you were encountering the face of Christ……Part of what makes a monastery a healthy place is to receive guests, so that the monks or sisters don’t get turned in on themselves, or imagine that they’re the center of the world, or that only they are good Christians. Part of what makes a church a healthy place is to receive guests, so that we don’t imagine we’re a club, or a secret place. A church should be a place anyone can come to meet Jesus, and a church is a place where anyone who comes can be a way for the other people there to meet Jesus. That’s why hospitality is so important. Because it helps us meet Jesus.” (http://www.stbenedict.ws/sermon/meeting-jesus-through-hospitality/)
I remember an article in a Young Life magazine years ago talking about Young Life leaders being “Jesus with skin on.” This Epiphany tradition helps us take time to remember those who have passed through our door this past year who has been “Jesus with skin on,” and we give thanks to God for them.
Each year, we gather around the table with candles with this liturgy to celebrate the Light. One of the things I love about liturgy is that each year, we say these words, and over time, it starts to sink in. Each year with different experiences that have marked our journeys, we bring more to the table, and hopefully we are able to savor the words and let them continue to have their way with us.
May 2020 be a year in which God gives us grace to see Him in the epiphanies of the daily experiences of our lives and may our home be a place where Christ’s light is known.
Robert Benson’s invitation sums it up best:
“Now the season of looking for Him everywhere is upon us — the season of Epiphany is what they call it. Heads up. Keep your eyes and ears and hands open. He is everywhere, and He moves in pretty surprising ways. You do not want to miss Him.”