Epiphany

wise men, magi, epiphanyIf you’ve ever heard someone say they’ve had an epiphany, what they mean is that they have discovered something unexpected. It happens suddenly, not over a period of time, and the revelation must of be something of great worth. The January 6th Epiphany on the Christian calendar commemorates the day the wise men discovered Jesus. Epiphany is the celebration of finding something worth finding. 

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:10-11

This is not a late Christmas message that we have drug into January. On the night Jesus was born, angels appeared to shepherds announcing birth of Christ. Those shepherds found the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger as the angels had said. Note that the wise men in Matthew 2:10 were going into the house when they saw the child. We don’t know exactly who the wise men were, where they came from, or even how many there were. But we know one thing for certain: they did not worship at the manger.

The wise men saw the star and traveled possibly from Persia, probably not from the far East. Despite the hymn We Three Kings of Orient Are, we can reasonably assume there were not three wise men, they were not kings, nor did they travel from the Orient. But we do know they traveled some distance and took a detour through Jerusalem. We do know that Jesus was circumcised 8 days after his birth. Joseph and Mary had traveled to Bethlehem to be taxed. Let us surmise, then, that after Jesus was born the family traveled from Bethlehem to Jerusalem and then returned to their home in Nazareth. (see footnote) The wise men traveled great distance, met with Herod in Jerusalem, was sent by Herod toward Bethlehem but following the star found the child Jesus safe and sound in his home. Not only did they enter the house but Jesus is described as a child and not a baby.

Epiphany celebrates the visit of the wise men and takes place several days after the birth celebration (Christmas Day). We also celebrate the manifestation of Jesus to the Gentiles. The magi discerned that a king of the Jews had been born, but consulted with the scholars and scribes in Jerusalem to find out exactly where. It was symbolic of things to come, just like the gifts they brought.


Footnote: Matthew 2 indicates that on their return from Egypt they learned that  Archelaus ruled over Judea in place of his father Herod and they were afraid to go there. Going instead to Galilee, after being warned again in a dream, they “went and lived in a city called Nazareth.” That makes it seem as if Nazareth was a new place and had not been their home before the whole adventure began. But in Luke 2:26 the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph... At the very least Nazareth had been the home of Mary and would be the hometown that Jesus identified with. 

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