Epiphany celebrates the appearance of God’s glory in the world through God’s incarnation, the birth of Jesus, Emmanuel… ‘God with us.’ The Greek word epiphany means literally, ‘sudden appearance’ A sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something…. A comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization. The realization of a truth that has always been present, but not always evident. A light bulb moment, if you will. Truth illuminated.
Simeon called Jesus “A light to lighten the Gentiles” and Jesus calls both himself and us “The light of the world”…and so the symbolism of light and truth pervade this Christmas season and inform our worship this day.
The Christian celebration of epiphany involves the travels of 3 wise men- commonly thought to be scholars/astronomers (recently a newly translated Syriac text – "The Revelation of the Magi” identifies the magi as “Those who pray in silence.)” Perhaps most significantly, these men were not Jews or Christians, they were "gentiles," people from outside of the Hebrew culture who were also searching for a miracle. Another perspective sees them as people who were, perhaps wealthy with worldly goods as a result of their heritage, but poor in spiritual wealth. You see, their worldly treasures obscured this true wealth, but in their heart of hearts, in their souls, they knew their poverty, and so it was that they set out looking for the spirit of truth, the richness of Christ, by following a sign;an uncommonly intriguing celestial event, a “star,” a light the likes of which surely held the promise of deeper truth than the stars peppered throughout the average night sky.
With them, the Magi took their worldly wealth, gold, frankincense and myrrh, to finance their trip. They traveled for, perhaps years, finally arriving at the town of
Bethlehem where, indeed,
they found truth and light. There
they found a child.
They offered their worldly wealth in symbolic gesture to the child.
Gold: incorruptible immortal precious metal of the sun, symbol of divinity and royality.
Frankincense: Exotic resin of divine communication and healing.
Myrrh: in Arabic called “bitter,” the sweet resin of tears for healing and anointing, in life as at death, a symbol of fragile humanity.
But whenever a gift is given, a gift is received. And on this 12th night, it was the magi who received a gift, an epiphany – the remembrance of a truth they had always known: That God is revealed to the hopeful, the faithful, to those who have time to see.
Here in a manger they found the Christ child, and in Him they saw a new light. A light that was reflected in their own hearts. A light for everyone – a light of the world.
And so it was that the magi came to find the Christ child and became truly wealthy for they discovered the light of the world, the gift of truth and love, Jesus the Christ. And they brought gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh. But these were worldly gifts, symbols of the event. The true gifts of the magi were these: hope, time and faith.
The gift of hope. Hope that their emptiness of spirit would be filled when they reached their journey’s end. Hope that spurred them to action; to risk all material wealth and seek the most important gift of a lifetime.
The gift of time. We have no accurate record of the length of time it took for the Magi to reach
Bethlehem. May have taken months to years. They set out on their journey with no time
limitations in mind. They set out to
seek a miracle for whatever length of time it took. The gift of time.
The gift of faith. Faith that their journey would fill the voids in their lives. Faith that their questions would be answered. Faith that the truth would be revealed. And it was.
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life”. And as he offered the disciples a counselor, “The Spirit of Truth” He said, Because I live, you will also live. On the day when you realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I am in you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 8:12, 14:20. 14:27
Loving God, we offer our gratitude for the gifts of Life you give us: Hope, time, faith, love, light, truth. Keep the mystery of Christmas alive in us. Let your son Jesus become flesh in us so that we may be, for all our brothers and sisters, a revelation of your love.
_/\_Peggy @ Ecumenicus
A very interesting book, Revelation of the Magi, on a recently discovered ancient text, The Revelation of the Magi, by Brent Landau gives an interesting perspective on this beautiful ancient story.