Today we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. We remember the visit of the three wise men, but we also remember that Jesus came into the world for everyone-Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, upper class people and lower class people, humble shepherds and wise men and so on.
It is also a happy time or a sad time depending on how you look at it. It marks the end of the 12 Days of Christmas and the end of the holiday season. For most of us, the decorations have been put away for another year, the parties and celebrations are over, visitors have returned home, and we are settling back into our daily routines after the Christmas season. We, like the Magi, need to break away from our daily routines and busyness to take time to look for the Christ Child. It might mean stopping in the midst of our daily lives to pray that God will help us center our thoughts on Jesus more than our daily lives. It might mean that we have to put down our to-do list to pick up our Bibles to read and absorb God’s Word.
The wise men endured a long, difficult journey. They endured dangers, hardships and scorn to find Christ, and so should we. When they found him, they worshipped him, and so should we. They set an example for us as Christians to follow. The Magi were on a quest, looking for more in their lives. They were not satisfied with the way things were. Otherwise, they would have stayed put. Change started for them when God made the first move and showed them a light in their darkness. They didn’t have to follow that light, but they picked up and began a journey that took them to Christ. They left their daily routines to find Jesus.
The star the Magi followed was not a natural phenomenon. It is a reminder that we need divine intervention to find out where Christ is in our lives. The busyness of our everyday lives can distract us from seeing the Messiah. When the light of Christ dwells in us, it guides us and blocks out the light from outside, worldly distractions. The light of Christ gives us the strength we need to make the name of Jesus known throughout the world.
The wise men studied the stars and believed in astrology. They believed that a person’s destiny was influenced by the star they were born under. They believed that if something strange happened in the sky, it was because God was breaking into the natural order to announce some special event. That is why they noticed and followed the star of Bethlehem. They had a limited sign and came to the Messiah, but those who knew the truth about God, his words and actions failed to take the Messiah’s birth seriously when they found out about it. In fact, they, like Herod, saw it as a threat to their positions and their way of life. Herod even saw it as a threat to his rule.
The Magi could not return to their old way of living after they met the Messiah, and we can’t return to our old way of living after we meet the Messiah. Jesus’ presence changes everything. There is more to life than our routines and careers. Life has more meaning now because the light of God’s presence is among us.
Those who refused to take the Messiah’s birth seriously were wrong. Jesus was a threat to their positions and their way of life because he challenged their way of doing things. He challenged them to change their ways, accept God in faith and follow his ways and teachings. He was ignored and despised not only because he challenged the established way of doing things, but also because he was not the type of Messiah people were looking for. They were looking for a Messiah who would come from the established ruling class and drive out the Romans. Instead, they got a humble servant who came from earthly parents who belonged to the lower classes of society. This fit in with one part of God’s plan for salvation-concern for the poor and disadvantaged members of society.
Epiphany is more than the inclusion of the Gentiles as part of God’s Kingdom. It is about breaking down the barriers that divide people. It challenges us to reconsider how we look at people whom we see as being outside the boundaries of God’s love. We must remember that God’s love knows no boundaries. We must take off our spiritual blinders and welcome those whom we don’t want to love.
The wise men represent us in God’s plan. They represent everyone who sets out in search of a king and finds the son of God. They gave Jesus the most precious material gifts they had, but each and every one of us can give him something even better-ourselves. Those who, like Herod and the chief priests and scribes, try to derail God’s plan for salvation will fail. They are no match for God or God’s people. God loves everyone, and Jesus came to save everyone.
The Magi were foreigners in the eyes of the ruling class, but Jesus was of keen interest to them. They went out of their way to find him and set treasures before him. The gifts the Magi brought were symbolic. Gold was a gift fit for a king, and Matthew’s Gospel introduced his Jewish audience to a king who would rule with love instead of hate, peace instead of violence. Frankincense is a gift for a priest. Jesus ministers to God on behalf of men. Myrrh is a gift for someone who is about to die. Jesus came to die for us on the cross. As we end another Christmas season, one of the best things we can do is to think about what gifts we can bring to him.