Many Christians celebrate Epiphany on the Sunday after January 6th. Sometimes my mind makes connections between things that others may have thought unrelated. Maybe we all do that, working in what some describe as thought webs, but I’m about to submit one such thought for your consideration.
Matthew 2:1-12 is the Gospel account of the wise men’s visit. Ephesians 2:11-21 describes how all believers are one in Christ. Verse 17 in particular says that Jesus has preached peace to those that were far away and those that were near. Consider how the Christmas narrative illustrates that point. Continue reading →
If 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.
It’s Christmastime Charlie Brown originally aired in 1965. Charlie Brown and Rudolf are lifetime favorites, Home Alone and The Santa Clause are a little bit newer (but perhaps still old movies to some of you). And I watch them all again every year.
Here’s a couple of oldie but goodies here on the Master’s Table that come back around every Christmas. Prayerfully consider the scriptures and see what you think.
Rethinking the Angelic Choir:
What is the first thing the angel says to the shepherds? Most of the time when angels appear in the Bible (unless in disguise) the first words out of their mouths are “Do not be afraid.” There must be a reason for this. Either the stature, or brilliance, or something we are not told about angels evokes fear in regular people. Note the words “heavenly host.” Anytime the Old Testament says anything about a host it is in reference to an army. I want you to carefully consider all of this together. An angel appears to a group of shepherds whose natural tendency is to run in fear. The sky was then filled with the heavenly host, singing and praising God. This was not a choir, made up of beautiful women in choir robes; it was a vast military force, an army of angels, possibly with swords drawn ready to do battle. Is all of this baseless conjecture? I do not think so. READ MORE
Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh
And what about myrrh? See myrrh is different. It’s a resin similar to frankincense, but offers a bitter aroma rather than a sweet one. In Biblical times its most common use was as an embalming agent. Had the women found Jesus on Sunday morning after the crucifixion, they would have anointed him with myrrh among other herbs. Gold and frankincense are obviously valuable gifts, but why offer myrrh? READ MORE
Have you ever seen a live nativity? Instead of plastic figures of shepherds and wise men, a live nativity scene has actors in costume, and for an hour or two each evening you can drive by and see them. The shepherds bow and worship, the magi present their gifts, perhaps Mary rocks her baby in her arms, or else Mary and Joseph simply admire him. It’s unlikely, even at a live nativity, that they have an actual newborn present. The “baby Jesus” might be a toddler, or even an infant, but you wouldn’t want to keep a real baby out in the cold for very long. Even a live nativity scene will often use a doll, or even just pretend there is a babe wrapped up in swaddling clothes and lying in the manger.
Contrast that scene with the night Jesus was born.
I’ve written before on just who the Magi were and where they might have been from. The truth is, we don’t know how many wise men visited Jesus nor where they came from. The traditional names Casper, Melchior and Balthazar are from the Western Church tradition; Eastern Orthodoxy and Ethiopian Christianity offer different lists of names. Were they from Persia? China? Like I said, we don’t know. They were not at the manger either, but that’s another story. Continue reading →
What if everything we knew about Christmas came from studying the pictures on our Christmas cards? Even if you never pick up a Bible, there’s a lot to learn from the cards we send around each year. Here’s a list of some that I’ve noticed:
Mary and Jesus are both white. I’ve even seen Jesus with red hair, and lots of it. Way too much for a newborn.
Angels are beautiful women. They basically look like super models in choir robes. OR
Angels are 6 year old children. They’re cute, and plump, and sometimes play musical instruments.
There were 3 wise men. There were exactly 3 wise men, no more, no less. Two of them were white, one was black. AND THEY WERE AT THE MANGER.
The manger was in a shelter made of wood with a straw roof. There were no other buildings of any sort for several miles in any direction.
These are a few of the things we learn when we get our theology from Christmas card images. Assuming of course that your cards have anything about Jesus on them at all. I’m going to leave it at this. Check out the first couple chapters of Matthew and Luke before asking stupid any questions.
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise menfrom the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it roseand have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:1-2
Take a good look at this nativity scene. Study it for a moment. It should look similar to every other nativity you’ve ever seen before. Jesus is lying in a manger filled with hay; the major characters are in or around a stable of some sort; the star would be shining above; the shepherds came from the field, where they had been watching their flocks; and the 3 wise men came bringing gifts. It’s a nice picture, and we think “That seems about right.” But it’s not. One of the things on my list, according to scripture at least, doesn’t belong. Continue reading →