Epiphany marks the end of the twelve days of Christmas. The readings for the Day of Epiphany reveal how the Gentiles come to acknowledge the glory of the Lord, the Light of Christ. [See previous posts from this site on the Feast of the Epiphany from 2012 and 2011 in which the readings are explored.]
In contrast to the Gospel of Luke (2:1-20) of which we have been following during Advent and Christmas in Year C, Matthew’s nativity story has no journey from Nazareth, and no angels proclaiming the birth of the Messiah to shepherds in the fields. Matthew presents to us the story of the Epiphany. The Light of Christ coming forth for all the nations – Gentiles and Jews – in the form of the visitation of the Wise Men.
Generally we think of these Wise Men as skilled in astrology, but that may not have been the case. Changes in the sky would have been quickly noticed by all, and few would miss the appearance of an especially bright star formed by the conjunction of our largest planets, Jupiter and Saturn. The sight was visible in Palestine and in much of western Asia in 7 B.C.E. It was a mystery then, and it continues to be a mystery today.
Paul wrote of this mystery in Ephesians 3: Now we can know, and the spiritual powers in the heavenly places can know. The Light of Christ has been unveiled for us, showing us God’s eternal purposes for humankind. There is no need for Gentiles to become Jews, since the Gentiles share in the same promises of salvation that were made to Israel. This salvation is manifested through the community of the Church so that “the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (v. 10). All are now members of the Body of Christ and share in the promises made by God through Christ.
Epiphany, then, means that all of the nations, including our own, may become fellow-heirs of all God’s promises through the ages. This day begins a season of “revealing” of the purposes of God as they touch us now. For God’s Anointed is alive and among us in power and glory.
- In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul describes the mission to the Gentiles, as the “mystery of Christ” (3:4). What significance does this passage have for us as Gentiles as we read it today?
- As the Wise Men set out on their quest, what do you think their expectations might have been about the child “born king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2)? What kind of men were they, and what can we learn from them as we read about they journey today?
- In the Epiphany season, the emphasis is on how Christ is made known to the world. What is our role in making the light of Christ shine out to the lives of those around us?
Image: He, Qi. Adoration of the Magi, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=46114 [retrieved December 31, 2012]