“Without the quest, there can be no epiphany.” ― Constantine E. Scaros, Reflections on a Simple Twist of Fate: Literature, Art and Parkinson’s Disease
“Sometimes the dreams that come true are the dreams you never even knew you had.” ― Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones
PRAYER: (from the Lectionary)
“Almighty God, by the leading of a star You declared Your only Son to the peoples of the earth; lead us who know You now by faith, to Your Presence where we may see Your Glory face to face, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”
SCRIPTURES: (from the Lectionary)
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we have observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” (Matthew 2:1-2 NIV)
PRAYER FOCUS: Epiphany
Epiphany is a great big word.
1. A Christian Festival, observed on January 6, commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi, commencing after the 12th day of Christmastide.
2. A sudden, intuitive perception of, or insight into, the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple or commonplace occurrence or experience.
We think their names were Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, although that is a church tradition and not written in the gospels. They came to Bethlehem via Jerusalem, looking for a newborn king who was mighty enough to have a star herald his arrival. Church tradition holds that there were three wise men, or Magi, but we’re not sure how many there were. Matthew describes them as astrologers from the east, probably Persia (modern day Iran), and that they were men of some means. We now call that encounter the Epiphany.
These wise men had made a dangerous journey across desert badlands, following a star that signaled the birth of a child of great promise. They stopped in Jerusalem to enquire, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” The Magi knew nothing of Jewish faith or traditions, and they had no interest in King Herod’s subterfuge. They just knew it was important to follow that star. They came in search of an infant king, and they found him. But they also, quite unexpectedly, had a face to face encounter with the King of Kings. By following a great light, they had found the True Light.
We’re not talking about receiving an unexpected blessing, or a happy surprise along the way—that word is serendipity. It’s a good word, but insufficient for the amazing transaction that took place in Bethlehem. Serendipity implies a lack of intention or action on the part of the receiver. On the contrary, the Magi were quite intentional and determined.
What the Magi found so exceeded what they were looking for, that only God could be in the difference. And yet Epiphany was about more than just the Magi.
Remember what the angel proclaimed to the shepherds? “For behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Remember as well Simeon’s words as he held the 40-day old infant Jesus in his arms, praising God, saying: “For my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”
Great joy for ALL the people. The singular implies every individual person. Salvation in the presence of ALL peoples. The plural here implies all the nations.
Simeon also praises God that the Messiah had come not only “for glory to your people Israel,” but also “as a light for revelation to the Gentiles.”
Thus, the Magi were the first Gentiles to acknowledge Jesus as King, and to worship Him as Lord. It means that Almighty God, El Elyon, the Adonai, was no longer the God of only the Hebrews, but was now the God of all people and all nations. God, in His loving grace and endless mercy, had stretched His reach beyond the Jewish people He had chosen to include the rest of humanity through his only begotten Son. These wise men—however many there were, and whatever their names—were the first to behold it.
They were amazed, overjoyed. And they bowed down before the Christ child and worshiped Him. Salvation had come to both Jew and Gentile. For God so loved the world.
The message of the Magi is it doesn’t matter where you’ve been or what you used to worship. It does matter that you stay the course and pursue the Light. God’s gift of His Son, the Christ, is for you, too.
What star do you follow, Christian? Are you willing to cross desert badlands and stand before wicked rulers? Are you willing to follow wherever it leads you, and offer your best and finest gifts?
It’s Monday Morning. Today, this Epiphany, we pray that our Father-God would lead us by faith, into His Presence where we may see His Glory. Let it be so in this new year–pursue Him with intention. Follow His star.