Blessings, Baptisms, & Cake Tosses

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Welcome to a holiday called “Epiphany.” Millions of people celebrate this day every year. The celebrations, however, are very inconsistent. On this day, some celebrate Christ being both man and God. Others celebrate the visit of the Magi. Some celebrate on January 6th, others on the 19th. How do they celebrate? This is where it gets really interesting.

In several countries, priests will bless various bodies of water. Everyone who plunges themselves in these blessed waters will have their souls cleansed of the sins they committed the previous year. Also in many countries, a priest will throw a wooden cross out into a body of water and a bunch of young men will race to it. The first to hold the cross will receive a blessing of good health for a whole year from the priest. In some countries, pastries are prepared with one having a black bean hidden inside. The person who finds the bean will be named king or queen for a day. In Ireland, this day is also used to celebrate women and their hard work over the holidays. In Italy, this holiday is associated with Befana, a broomstick-riding old woman who brings gifts to children. In Wales, young men try to capture a small bird called a wren. In the United States, people celebrate in a variety of ways, one of which includes a fruitcake-tossing contest (Wikipedia).

What is odd about this holiday and all it’s practices is that it is all under the Eastern Orthodox religion. One would think this day would be unified, but clearly it is not. The reason is simple, nothing about this celebration is found in Scripture. Yes, the Magi are in Scripture and so is the teaching about the deity of Christ, but nothing else. There is nothing about a swim race to a cross to win a blessing. There’s nothing about priests blessing water and it becoming holy for a day so people can cleanse their sins. And there’s certainly nothing about a fruitcake-tossing contest.

Some people walk away from these celebrations thinking they have salvation and blessings when the reality is quite different. The problem is that these beliefs are based heavily on tradition, not on Scripture. God warned against these types of traditions, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

Practices based in tradition can feel right, but we must rely on something more concrete. We must look beyond what people feel is right or what people have always done. How can we do this? The solution comes two verses earlier, we must be firmly rooted in Scripture: “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed…” (Colossians 2:6-7).

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