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Epiphany in Ethiopia: baptism and new life

Exploring how the festival of Timket – Epiphany in Ethiopia – can help us to draw closer to God in prayer.

Rachael Adams | 14 Jan 2022

Priests carry the Tabot, a model of the Arc of Covenant, during Timket celebrations of Epiphany, commemorating the baptism of Jesus, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia | Credit: Dejere/Shutterstock

In Eastern churches, Epiphany is the celebration of Christ’s baptism by John the Baptist in the River Jordan (Matthew 3:16-17). Hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians are set to mark this occasion – known locally as Timket – on 19 January. Feben, from our Ethiopia Team, tells us more about the festival and how it gives us an opportunity to grow closer to God in prayer.

Timket – in celebration

‘Preparation for the day starts in advance,’ Feben shares. ‘On the eve of the celebration, followers escort their parish church’s Tabot (a replica of the Ark of the Covenant), which is transported by the parish priest, to a nearby pool, river or artificial reservoir.

‘Followers then spend the night attending night-long prayers and hymn services, including the Eucharistic Liturgy [a communion service].

‘Hundreds of thousands of people participate in the actual festival on the following day. The celebration starts early in the morning with pre-sunrise rituals. These are followed by the sprinkling of blessed water on the congregation, as well as other ceremonies.

‘At 10am, each Tabot begins its ceremonious return to its respective church with followers escorting with various traditional and religious songs.

‘The gathering of followers are dressed in cultural clothing to commemorate the baptism of Christ. There are Orthodox clergies singing the praise, dedicated to the rituals, hymns, while carrying the Ark, and preaching relevant texts. This ensures we continue to surround ourselves in the presence of Christ.’

Baptism and new life

‘This is a special celebration, one that my family and I observe yearly with great fondness,’ continues Feben.

‘We see it as an opportunity to pray for renewal and forgiveness and pass on the teachings of Christ to our children, so that when they come of age, they too will carry on this tradition and have the same love for Christ.

‘We grow our bond with our loved ones and in our devotion to Christ. My family and I feel the presence of Christ more deeply.’

Clergy accompany the singing and chanting of Ethiopian Orthodox followers with kebero, traditional drum, during Timket celebrations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia | Credit: Dereje/Shutterstock

Broken world, broken relationships

God is good, and the Bible is filled with passages about justice and care for people who are living in poverty. The conflict and oppression that we see across the world demonstrates that something has gone badly wrong. The cause of broken relationships is with God, with each other, with ourselves and with creation.

The good news is that God can mend this. We don’t have to do it alone.

Epiphany – Timket – is the opportunity to ask for forgiveness from God and to commit afresh to partnering with God to bring healing and restoration.

Pray with us

Dear God,

We thank you for the faithfulness of John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Christ. We thank you for your son, Jesus Christ, and for the salvation that is made possible through him. We thank you for your love, God, graciously poured out on us, and for the relationship we now have with you because of Jesus Christ.

We are sorry for the decisions and choices we have made that do not value you, others, ourselves or creation. Forgive us, we pray.

Lift up to God things that you would like to ask forgiveness for. Take some time before moving on to pause and listen out for anything that God may be saying to you. He may share a Bible verse or an image with you.

We pray for a renewal of our faith, Lord, with you. Show us how we can love you, others, ourselves and creation in the ways you have intended us to. Give us wisdom, courage and clarity in all we do, so that we can honour you God, we pray.

Lift up to God areas where you would like to see breakthroughs. For example, global issues that are needing healing, such as the conflict in Ethiopia. Again, do not rush away and have a two-way conversation with God.

End your time in prayer by thanking God for working with and through you.

Amen.

  Rachael Adams


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