How about a brief biblical lesson for our edification. Believe it or not, it does fit into our theme of community. Fear not, this will be a very abridged and simplified version.
As with most things regarding religion, there are all sorts of different traditions, including the date, depending on what calendar is used, and focus of what is celebrated. January 6 is the general date set aside for the celebration of Epiphany. The Eastern Church celebrates the baptism of Jesus in the river Jordan with this feast ranking third after Easter and Pentecost. The Western Church celebrates the visit of the Magi or Wise Men. What both traditions do agree on is the manifestation of Jesus the Christ to the world. In fact, epiphany is from the Greek and means to appear or to manifest.
Only the Gospel of Matthew 2:1-12 mentions the visit of the Magi, or Wise Men. What’s so interesting about the Magi is their recognition and seeking the Christ, “the child born king of the Jews.” They came from the East and were most likely of the priestly caste of Zoroastrianism. Their priestly duties included studying the stars. Their religion gained international reputation for astrology which was a highly regarded science at that time.
These wise men also paid attention to their dreams. Not knowing exactly where to look for the Christ child, they paid King Herod a visit. Herod was very threatened by the thought of another king-child and asked the Magi to let him know what they found. They found the child, with his mother Mary. After paying homage to him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, they were warned in their dreams not to return to Herod. So they returned to their own country via another route.
What can we take away from the Magi’s visit? What will be our own “epiphany”? What difference can this possibly make in my life, January 6, 2011!
I’ll go first, to get things started. I’m intrigued at how diligent the wise men were in watching the stars. They knew there would be a message, and I don’t think they knew what that message would be. They were open, alert, paying attention. They weren’t limited to what was familiar: Zoroastrianism. They were willing to seek out what they saw in the stars. When they weren’t sure where the star was leading, they inquired. They kept searching until they recognized they were where they were supposed to be. I don’t think they got the same angelic heralding as the shepherds; they knew and trusted their guiding star. They came prepared. Their study of the stars told them something very special was occurring and they came prepared with gifts. Finally, they paid attention to their dreams. Sometimes it’s difficult to trust that which we cannot see, but we know it’s right. They trusted.
The beauty of an epiphany is that it is personal and true for you. What are your epiphanies?