If you saw our Christmas pageant this year you know that we were ahead of the equality curve. That’s right, our three Kings, our Wise men, were in fact, Wise women.
There’s a popular comment that floats around this time every year. It says that if indeed there had been Three Wise Women they would have been much more efficient. They would have asked for directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, brought practical gifts, like diapers, cleaned the stable, made a casserole and brought peace on earth!
Anyway, today is Epiphany, they day we celebrate the Wise ones visit to the Holy Child.
Epiphany is a Greek word meaning “appearance or manifestation.” Older than Jesus’ birth, it could refer to the appearance of the dawn or an enemy in war. In the Greek version of the Old Testament, epiphany was used to refer to a manifestation of the God of Israel.
Over time, the word has also developed a secular meaning referring to a sudden intuitive thought. The classic example of this is the story of Isaac Newton sitting under a tree and being simultaneously struck by a falling apple and the idea of gravity. This fits the Greek sense of the word as the Greeks believed that all creativity followed from divine insight. Music, art, poetry, even mathematical ideas flowed from the appearance of muses who unexpectedly imbibed creative energy upon people. In other words, all creative genius was seen as being touched by God in some way.
That’s a key point to hold close as we mark Epiphany. As we celebrate the wonders of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us, the real point of it all is that we in some way are touched by God’s Spirit. In Epiphany, we see God indwelling in Jesus, so that Christ may dwell in us.
It is easy to get lost in this story and miss the idea of God’s touching us. We marvel at the star, we tremble at the duplicity of Herod, we’re fascinated by the supposed royalty of the travelers, we dream about golden gifts.
Yet all of that is extra detail. It remains this word, epiphany, appearance, that is the crux of the matter for us. Whether they were kings, or astrologers, three or three hundred-- all things not specified in Matthew’s story-- the issue is they were from afar. They are not of God’s covenant with Israel. The magi are the first Gentiles to recognize that God has indeed come to dwell in humanity. They are people who walked in darkness, and have now seen a great light. And on them the light has shined.
They are in a word, us. For all the wandering and searching we may do in life for the right answer, the perfect match, the best fit, the one super gift, the grasping for the past, the answer to our fear of change, these wise ones of Matthew lead the way. It is not about the star, or the gifts, or Herod, it is about us. About us seeing what is before us. Like newton under his apple tree, it is about recognizing that we have been touched by the Spirit of God. And being touched, allows us to carry on throughout the journey before us. Whatever that journey may be. It is indeed about seeing the Christ child in every step of the way.
On Epiphany day,
we are still the people walking.
We are still people in the dark,
and the darkness looms large around us,
beset as we are by fear,
a dozen alienations that we cannot manage.
We are — we could be — people of your light.
So we pray for the light of your glorious presence
as we wait for your appearing;
we pray for the light of your wondrous grace
as we exhaust our coping capacity;
we pray for your gift of newness that
will override our weariness;
we pray that we may see and know and hear and trust
in your good rule.
That we may have energy, courage, and freedom to enact
your rule through the demands of this day.
We submit our day to you and to your rule, with deep joy and high hope.