Friday, January 6, 2012

Epiphany

  Today we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany.  This special feast marks the end of the Christmas season and the start of the season of Epiphany.  Some countries and traditions go all out on Epiphany.  In some places, it is even bigger than Christmas.  Gifts are given in remembrance of the wayfaring strangers who brought gifts to honor Jesus.
  Much lore has gathered around those travellers.  We sing "We three kings of Orient are . . . "  but the record does not state how many there were (Matthew 2:1-12).  Over time, their number was inferred from the gifts they brought.  Gold, frankincense, and myrrh were brought to worship the infant King.  Tradition has also given the travellers name: Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar.  We have also made them into kings (note the famous Epiphany carol I cited earlier). 
  Truth be told, these strangers were most likely astronomers.  They had been specially trained to watch the stars and to interpret dreams.  Some scholars suggest Daniel was such a one and that, in fact, these wise ones owe their training to Daniel's presence in Babylon.  However, these learned sages were not Jewish.  They were decidedly Gentile-- not a part of God's covenant people. 
  Yet God reached out to these ones.  Because they were watching the skies, they were alert and watchful.  They did not miss the appearance of an extra-ordinary star.  Nor did they fail to know its meaning.  And they make the long journey to offer their gifts to One who would change the fate of the world.
  Epiphany means "a manifestation," "a showing."  By reaching out to embrace a group of Gentiles, God makes it clear that the Light (Jesus) is not just for one people.  God came to enfold people of every "tribe, language, nation, and race" into His arms of everlasting love. 

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