Dear Friends in Christ:
Today is the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord...The very word Epiphany, comes from the Greek word epiphainein, which means “manifestation,” or, “to reveal.” This refers to Christ’s manifestation as God to the world. It is a celebration of the revelation of God in human flesh. It could also be said that an Epiphany is: “an intuitive grasp of reality through something simple and striking.” Something as simple as a child. Something as striking as a star, the star of Bethlehem.
The Liturgical calendar in the United States places it on the Sunday between January 2nd and January 8th, but in many countries and cultures it is still celebrated on its traditional date of January 6th, the twelfth day of Christmas, known as “Little Christmas” or “Three Kings Day.” Celebrations abound in the streets with processions of costumed kings riding camels, with gift giving happening more so on this day in some cultures than on Christmas in commemoration of the gifts presented to the infant Jesus. There is the traditional Kings Bread or King Cake which is also very popular. When I was in Seminary I had two classmates from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and this was a big moment when they returned to Seminary from Christmas break with the King Cake in hand. They taught us about the history and tradition of the King Cake. It is a sweet bread in the shape of a crown in which a plastic figurine of the infant Jesus is baked. Whoever gets the slice with the baby Jesus is said to gain favor, and they are tasked with bringing the King Cake the next year! Although King Cake is often associated with Mardi Gras, its original place was in the celebration of Three Kings Day, so we got to enjoy it twice a year while they were with us! On this Feast we also think of the very popular song, “We Three Kings,” but were they kings and were there three? First, according to the biblical account of the visit of these men to the infant Jesus, the text simply says “behold, magi from the east arrived.” It is understood in the context of the biblical reading that these magi were likely possessors of the knowledge of astrology implied by their study of the stars. So they are not really kings at all, but men learned in astrology. Scholars believe that the “east” from which they came was likely Babylonia. The Scripture passage also never mentions how many there were. The tradition of “three” likely arises from the three gifts Scripture mentions: "Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh." Three gifts are mentioned in Scripture. If there are three gifts, it was assumed there must be three gift givers, therefore we have “three kings.” It’s a meaningful number. Three is the number of the Blessed Trinity. It is the number of days Christ spent in the tomb. But it also signifies something more meaningful and – for us, much more important. They are not solitary. They are a group. They are a community. That is part of the great message of Christianity. We are meant to receive the good news together...to live it together...to celebrate it and share it with one another, and isn’t that what we are doing together as a parish family! The story of the Visit of the Magi makes an important point about the role of the Messiah. Jesus is called “the newborn king of the Jews” by the magi who traveled from the east. These men were not Jewish, yet they paid homage to the King of the Jews. Matthew, who wrote to a Jewish audience, hoped to express the universal role of Christ in this story. These men were foreigners but they honored Jesus as their king. Jesus is shown now to the whole world. This Feast is about God making known salvation outside of what had been a chosen few. God cares about all creation no matter race, creed, or ethnicity. As we contemplate the gifts of the Magi to our Lord, let us think of the gifts we ourselves can offer Him. Certainly we are called to offer Him all that we are, but we are also called to reflect His presence in our words and actions. What better time to consider how we may better do this in our lives than as we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany and begin this special year of God’s grace. One tradition on the Feast of the Epiphany is to bless the doors to your homes! The Gospel tells us that the Magi found Christ “on entering the house.” The door to your home is a holy threshold. You can bless those who come in and go out by inscribing above the door in chalk the first two numbers of the year+C+M+B+the last two numbers of the year. Tradition tells us that the letters stand for the names of the magi: Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. So this year it would