Epiphany: epiphany means manifestation, and this day celebrates three epiphanies of Christ. They are the adoration of the magi as described in the reading, the baptism of the Lord, and the wedding at Canna. Today though the focus tends to be at this Christmastide epiphany that is the adoration of the Christ child by those three magi. The thing though, is just as those travelers chart their course towards the new born messiah, this person must chart a course on how to approach this event. There is the wise men themselves, their legend, their history, their gifts, the lessons learned. A lot is projected onto this day, it has many traditions associated with it as the little Christmas. As they took a journey across the Mideast to reach the Christ, I thought perhaps I would take a journey through their history and incorporate tat history with the journey of the Spirit.
To start the historical journey, would one question to ask be “who are magi, and where do they come from?” Magi are Persians, and are from a religion known as Zoroastrians. The land that they came from is now Iran and at the time of Christ’s Nativity they were quite a large group. In the Mideast they were the predominant religion of Persia until they were overtaken by the Muslims. Their beliefs were in one God, and they are the ones who brought into prominence the notion of light and darkness as representative of god and evil. Lights and fire play a major role in their worship, so much so that some observing them thought they indeed worshiped the light emanating from their fires. They did not, they worshiped the goodness that the light represented. It is fitting then that extra candles are lit in Churches today symbolizing Christ as the light of the world. Those magi on their journey were specifically looking for the newborn King that is the light of the world. They worshiped the light of good, and in seeking that light they followed a star to the newborn King of the Jews. That star then that guided them was the goodness of God, Gods love.
Collect: May the splendor of your majesty, O Lord, we pray, shed its light upon our hearts, that we may pass through the shadows of this world and reach the brightness of our eternal home. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever
In thinking of those wise men on their journey, one has to think of them not simply as legend but as genuine people with their sandals to the ground. They took a real journey, and on that journey they had to chart a course and follow a path. To put that road into perspective their gifts were gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Two of these, and possibly all three were incense, and incense was more valued than gold. Frankincense is representative of the heavenly kingdom, and Gold the earthly. Myrrh hints towards the suffering the child would endure. There was a road that ran from Ethiopia through Jerusalem known as the incense trail. Had those wise men travelled it, the would have travelled through many kingdoms. On that journey, they were in search of a newborn king, and guided by the light of a star. I wonder at what point that star guided them to Bethlehem?On that journey they would have traveled through many Kingdoms, but how many were kingdoms that were Guided by the light? I am certain as they travelled down that road they journeyed through darkness and all that word suggests. They stayed on their course though and followed that star. Their epiphany was to find that newborn king that was beneath that star.
On that journey, I doubt Herod was the only king that they encountered, but I am certain that they encountered many like him, not kings of the light but men of darkness. It was darkness that those wise men wished to defeat. They journeyed for a king guided by a star, Gods love.That star led them to Mary and her Son, Jesus the Christ. That newborn King they searched for we call the light of the world. Today’s collect emphasizes those wise men’s quest for that King known as the light of the world, and also the darkness that they certainly had to navigate to find it.