Thoughts for Epiphany

January 5, 2009

Happy Epiphany everybody. For those of you that are less holiday-minded:

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.”

When Herod the king had heard [these things], he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.

And they said unto him, “In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, ‘And thou Bethlehem, [in] the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.’”

Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, “Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found [him], bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.”

When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

-Matthew 2:1-12 (KJV)

Some Thoughts:

Epiphany is the one of the first public declarations that Jesus is the Christ (thus the name, though it could be argued that it was not public enough to warrant the name). The use of the term “King of the Jews” by the Magi and the fact that they have come to worship Him attest to that fact.

The incarnation is quite a crazy mystery. The fact to that totality of God can be compressed into a single cell is a little mind-boggling. The fact that God would go through all that to redeem His people is quite a relief. If God is willing to become a man (and eventually die a horrible death on a tree) in order to save us, it certainly speaks of his lovingkindness.

He is also the Truth. These magi were pointed to Jesus in their efforts to discover truth. And then they submitted to that Truth. They worshipped Him, they presented pricy gifts to Him symbolic of His future life, they followed the will of God by not reporting back to Herod, allowing Jesus the time necessary to be taken to Eygpt before Herod’s slaughtering of toddlers.

Looking at the gifts themselves: Gold is obviously a gift for a king. Frankincense is the amber of a genus of trees; it is extremely expensive and used primarily as incense in those Judeo-Christian sects that uses incense. It is one of those things regularly used in the office of a priest. Myrrh is an  amber from a different genus of trees; it is also expensive and used at the time primarily as a component of anointing oil and an embalming ointment. Myrrh could be seen as part of the sacrificial duties of the priest and the sacrifice Christ would have to undergo approx. 30 years later. So, Christ is a King (one with authority), a Priest (one with a direct connection to God), and a Sacrificial Lamb (one sacrificed for the sins of God’s people).

So, Happy Epiphany and I hope you had a Merry Christmastide.


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