Often during the Christmas Season, we sing The Twelve Days of Christmas. That song represents the period of December 25th, the day we celebrate the birth of Christ, up to the period of the Epiphany which begins, historically, January 6th. “Epiphany” is a manifestation or an appearance. In the Biblical sense, it was a recorded revelation where God made Himself known. In scripture, “The Epiphany” pointed to these specific events: the coming of the Magi to worship the child Jesus; the baptism of Jesus, and Jesus’ appearance at the wedding in Cana when He turned water into wine. In each of these events, scripture makes clear that Jesus was not just another man as God made his presence known.
Most western churches focus on the appearance of the Magi or “wise men” in celebrating the Epiphany. In Matthew 2:1-2 NLT, we are told: Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise menfrom eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking,“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” How did they know to ask about this? They KNEW from their studies of the scripture that a star was to appear and that it would lead them to a king!
In the Orthodox Christian Church, Epiphany focuses on the baptism of Jesus. Matthew 3:16 NLT says: After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him.And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” In that moment, God revealed Himself as the Trinity – God the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.
In January 2019, a team of extraordinary musicians (with a couple of extras) will celebrate the Epiphany in the tradition of the Russian Orthodox Church. If you google the Russian celebration of the Epiphany, you mainly find references to the ice water plunges in cross-shaped holes cut in the ice, something of a cult event that has evolved from the historical Christian event. Yet, the Epiphany for years was celebrated with sacred and classical music pointing to the birth and life of Christ. Our team will be a part of this celebration in 2019 – a celebration with a goal of bringing back the true meaning of this holiday period.
For these young adults, it will be a “once in a lifetime” event. Our team, Strings Jackson, are members of the First Baptist Jackson Sanctuary Orchestra. Most are students at Belhaven University. This endeavor requires sacrifice. In addition to being full or part-time undergraduate and graduate students, these kids (that is really what they are) depend heavily on “gig work” for meeting expenses, paying tuition, dealing with life. They play as contract orchestra and ensemble players, are members of the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, do wedding and other event work, are studio musicians, teach privately or through First Jackson’s Academy of Arts, and work other non-music jobs so they can follow their dreams and embrace their passion!
In January 2019, this particular group will journey to St. Petersburg for a week of cultural interaction with musicians from around the world as they participate in Epiphany Nights, an international Festival of Evangelical Culture in St. Petersburg, Russia. The year 2019 marks the 15th year of the festival which revived the old traditions and resumed historical concerts of sacred music, which took place in the capital of the Russian Empire from the time of Peter I until the 1920s. This is one of few opportunities now open to evangelical culture involving non-Russians. Strings Jackson, will perform chamber concerts, participate in the large festival orchestra, and be a part of related events. Our team is working with Rotila Ilie Croitoru, a native of Moldova and a graduate of the N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov Saint Petersburg State Conservatory. Ilie is a world renown conductor and one of the festival’s founders.
I want to personally invite you to join us for a “thank you” concert performed by our team on Sunday, January 13th at 6PM in the Chapel of First Baptist Church Jackson. It will be a great evening of worship, prayer and celebration. If you are interested in assisting this team in other ways, including financially, please contact Cille Litchfield at firstname.lastname@example.org or Leslie Hancock at email@example.com. Most of all, we ask you to pray for the team and the opportunities placed before them. We look forward to seeing you on January 13th!