Epiphany, January 6th, 2016:
(Conclusion to the 2015 Advent Season Series: Light of the World)
Epiphany (January 6th), celebrated since the end of the second century, represents the arrival of the Magi (or Wisemen) in Bethlehem. Although the Magi are included in Nativity scenes in many countries, they were not actually present on the eve of Christ’s birth. In 1223 St. Francis of Assisi realized that the village church was too small to hold a large crowd for the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass. Assisi had a creative solution to accommodate many people and emphasize devotion to the celebration of Christ’s birth. After receiving permission from the Pope, Assisi is credited with creating the first Nativity panorama in a cave on a hillside in the Italian village of Grecio, with two live animals (an ox and a mule) along with a straw-filled manger. St. Francis welcomed the villagers to the live display and taught them about the ‘babe of Bethlehem.” As the idea of the Nativity scene grew, the Magi were added to it, which explains why many individuals believe they were present for Jesus’ birth.
However, in the Biblical account of the Magi (see Matthew 2: 1-12), there are key indications that they probably arrived approximately two years later. Their visit is significant; because they had revelation of Christ as Lord and King, which was indicated by their instinct to go to King Herod’s palace to make inquiries about the newborn King of the Jews. Prior to leaving the palace, Herod had instructed the Magi to report back to him after they found the King’s location. Although Herod pretended that he also wished to pay homage, his intention was to eliminate the baby he perceived to be competition for his throne. Therefore, when the Magi did not find Jesus at the palace, they continued their quest to Bethlehem. Following the star, they located Jesus in a house (not in a manger); and they publicly acknowledged His royalty when they knelt before Him to present their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The story of the Magi is filled with wonder, adventure, mystery, and murder (i.e., When God warned the Magi in a dream, they did not return to provide Herod with the information he demanded. So he arranged the slaughter of all baby boys under the age of two years, which was based on the Magi’s estimation of when the star first appeared in the sky.). Numerous speculation-filled articles have been written regarding the Magi (e.g. who they were, where they came from, and how many journeyed to Bethlehem). I read several accounts before realizing that I was straying from what we DO know about these men and what we can learn from them.
We do know that the Magi followed the light of the Star to the Light of the World. They knew which Light to follow and didn’t chase after, nor let themselves be side-tracked by, temporary ‘signs’ in the sky (i.e., they didn’t chase after meteorite showers or falling stars). They knew the prophecies about Jesus’ birth, and they undertook a quest that involved approximately two years of potentially dangerous night (e.g., robbers, wild animals, and poor road conditions). Yet, in spite of these challenges, these men pursued their goal of locating and worshipping the newborn King. And they did so diligently, persistently, faithfully, passionately, and reverently. They were also ready to share the Good News, with Herod; but they also listened to, and followed, God’s overriding directions (from following the Star to the Saviour and to Safe-guarding His life via not revealing His location to Herod).
Given the example of the quest of the Magi , what can we do to emulate their devotion to our King?We can ask ourselves questions to determine our answer. For example, “Are we also seeking a closer relationship with the Light of the World in spite of life’s challenges, and what discoveries have been made while doing so?” Furthermore, “Do we still have the passion and compassion that we did when we first became His followers?” Finally, “Are we ready to share the Light with others?” Then, “Go Light Your World!”