If you follow the traditional church calendar you may recall today is the last day of Christmas, which also makes it Epiphany Eve.
The Epiphany, often overlooked in the wake of Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, is a holy day unto itself, and a festival day in many countries.
Drawn from the Greek word epipháneia, meaning to show forth or appear, The Epiphany recalls the arrival of the Three Wise Men, also called magi or kings, to worship Jesus in Bethlehem.
The arrival of the magi is detailed in Matthew 2:9-11: “… they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
Their arrival was the culmination of a long and arduous journey with an uncertain conclusion. They knew they sought the Messiah, a new King of kings foretold in prophecy, but where and in what circumstances they would find this savior was unknown.
In persevering and finding the baby Jesus they fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah 60: “Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”
If we look beneath the surface of the story we find more meaning than three kings delivering gifts to a Jewish baby in a manger.
Their adoration of Jesus, their epiphany of his divinity, represents the revelation of God Incarnate to the Gentiles. This epiphany foreshadowed the spread of The Way of Christ, beyond what easily could have been restricted to some version of reformed Judaism, into a world-wide faith that seeks out all of God’s children.
But the story goes beyond the literal, to deeper allegorical meaning for each of us.
Just as the magi travelled far into uncertainty to find the promised Messiah, so too are each of us called to undertake our own spiritual journey — to go within, beyond the false promises of temple and palace, to find Christ among the most humble settings of humanity.
There, beyond the trappings of worldly wealth, we are promised to not only see, but to be defined by the light of Christ’s face.
In that epiphany, in the realization of Christ’s eternal presence within and through us, we will kneel and offer the one gift Christ desires of each of us: our hearts, opened and ready to receive him and to carry the glory of his Incarnate Word into the world.
Happy Twelfth Night, and I wish for each of you the deepest meaning of Epiphany.