Today marks the end of the Christmas season. January 6 is celebrated as the Epiphany. On Christmas Eve we have as our lessons the ones from Luke that speak of Shepherds and angels. Last Sunday we had the great story of Jesus the 12 year old boy in the temple. But today we mark the event of the Epiphany and our symbols are the three wise men from the East who brought homage and gifts to the baby Jesus. It is really good to have this extended season of Christmas to spend with our families and to extend the importance of the Christ being born into the world. The long week of holiday gives me the time to reach out to many of the important people in my life.
One focus of Epiphany is the gifts of the Magi. The three wise men from the East brought
gifts to the baby Jesus and that is the focus for today. These three visitors from the East are rich
with meaning. OT prophecy tells of
Gentile Kings coming to worship the God of Israel. Later, extra biblical tradition calls them
Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. Legend
says one is African, one Asian and one European. The Mathew’s gospel says, “When Jesus was
Matthew could have called these three Kings but
instead he uses the word Magi. Magi
represent the world’s spiritual and intellectual resources. These wise men do come but not the generals
and Kings, these three are sometimes called astrologers which can give them a
negative reputation. But I think that
they are best thought of as first century astronomers. The east or
The wise men come to worship the one God. These three came not seeking power but wisdom which is why they fall to their knees to worship the baby.
In Jesus ministry he told us that his kingdom was not
from this world, he did not care about who was the King of Israel. He would not say he was the fulfillment of
In exchange for wisdom the Magi leave behind what they had, gold, frankincense and myrrh. This is not like our gift giving which is reciprocal. We like to exchange gifts of approximately equal value or we become embarrassed. This presentation of gifts is different. Exchange is transactional. But Epiphany is not about an exchange it is about making an offering as a gift.
The Magi are scholars and scientists. They follow a star that they believe will lead them to an exalted person, because even nature is taking note of the birth. They must have been very surprised at what they found. Because there was nothing exalted about it. When they found Jesus in a manger they did not change their minds about giving their gifts because they are wise men. They trusted their observations and their interpretation that the star points to the Jesus baby.
They offer gold fracensense and murr but they know there will be no exchange, they fall on their knees upon straw and mud and yet Joseph and Mary do not feel humiliated by these rich gifts because they know who their son really is.
The wisdom of the wise men shows us that we can break out of the world of reciprocity and exchange and move into the world of gift. The worship of Jesus breaks the old way of getting and staying even. When we worship Jesus we receive the whole world. When you receive your life and all of creation as a gift all we can say is thank you and in the spirit of the wise men accept God’s gift to us in wisdom.
Each one of you is a unique creation of God. Each of you has special gifts that are yours. Each of us need to embrace what is special within us and press those gifts into the service of the God who put them there. We each want to embrace our gifts and enjoy them. We want to develop them. God’s gifts to us need to be exercised and made stronger. A gift not accepted and used is a rejection of the God who gave it to us. The will of God revealed to us by the wisdom of the Magi is to use our gifts together with our wisdom and to express our faith in action. To share your gifts because God has shared the greatest gift ever, his son Jesus.
With a star God led three wise men to worship the baby Jesus. Today you have been led here by the same God to do likewise.
1. What do you think about them being scientists rather than political figures?
2. Do you think the wise men thought they might have made a mistake when they found Jesus and his parents?
3. What is your best gift?