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By Pastor Paul Gauche

Today’s Word: ‘20+C+M+B+20’ as in… Chalking.

We’re still in the wonderful season of Epiphany. It’s okay if that’s new news to you; it hasn’t been on my front burner either. Not like Advent and Christmas were front and center. Much of our culture got a running start on Thanksgiving, jumped right over Advent into Christmas which was, for  all intents and purposes, over before it even got started, then briefly paused for New Year’s Eve, and is now leaning heavily into Valentine’s Day. After the chocolate is gone, it’s on to March Madness.

But let’s just pause for a moment.

Epiphany began on January 6 and stretches into the gray days of mid-winter, right up to February 23, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of Lent.

But again, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Wow. See how easy it is to rush?

There’s an ancient practice that is directly linked to Epiphany called “Chalking.” It seems to be making a bit of a resurgence, or at least I’m starting to notice it more; kind of like when you start noticing multiples of things after seeing just one, like when you notice red cars, or motorcycles, or perhaps even other guys wearing beautiful Carhartt shirts.

“Chalking” begins either on the eve of Epiphany, January 5, or on the Day of Epiphany, January 6, when Christ followers around the world mark their door frames with this pattern: “20+C+M+B+20.”

Let me break that down for you:

The ‘20’ on both ends refers to the calendar year. The crossed point to Christ. The three letters, C, M, and B, refer to the initials of the Magi: Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. These are the three wise men, the three kings who visited visited Mary, Joseph and Jesus. These three letters abbreviate the Latin blessing Christus mansionem benedicat, translated as “May Christ Bless this house.” And all of this, of course, recalls the Passover in Exodus 12 where the Israelites marked the door frames of their houses.

So why do this?

This is a home blessing that we share with those who visit. As hospitality was shown to the Magi, we are called to show extravagant hospitality to all people as we invite the presence of God into wherever we live work and play.

What an Epiphany!


Paul Gauche is the Pastor of Life Transitions at Prince of Peace. His posts are part of his #100days50works project, where be blogs about a different word each day. You can follow his project on Instagram (@pgauche), or on his blog, Thriving Rhythms.

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  • Chris Erickson

    Wow, that was new. Thanks Pastor Paul.

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