Daily Devotion - Wednesday, January 6, 2016
Today is Epiphany, the 12th day of Christmas, and the beginning of the Season of Epiphany, which will continue until the beginning of Lent on February 10th. Epiphany celebrates the visit of the magi (wise men) to the Holy Family, which, by extension, stands as a symbol for the Church that the Good News of Jesus Christ is for everyone, everywhere.
The Gospel of Matthew relates that the magi brought three gifts (gold, frankincense and myrrh), which has led to the widely held belief that there were only three wise men present during the visit. In fact, virtually every nativity scene that I have in my house depicts the three wise men holding their gifts and looking adoringly at baby Jesus.
When we start to dig a bit into this story, however, we find that everything isn't as neat as all that. To begin with, the magi didn't visit the Holy Family just a few days after the birth of the Christ child. Biblical scholars widely believe that the visitation of the wise men actually happened at least one if not two or three years after Jesus' birth.
And there are, in fact, some Syriac and ancient Eastern Christian traditions that place the number of wise men at twelve, not three, and had them coming from all over the world--a mirror of sorts to the twelve tribes of Israel.
Western Christianity, however, settled mainly on the idea of three wise men and also developed traditions surrounding them, including giving them names and origins. There was Melchior, a Persian scholar, Gaspar, who was from India and Balthazar, who was of Arab descent. Ethiopian Christian tradition has one of the wise men hailing from Africa. Chinese Christian scholars in the 19th century came to believe that at least one of the magi was from China.
What is it about this story of the magi that captures our imagination? What about it has led so many Christians throughout the ages to so deeply desire to see themselves within it? Most likely it has to do with what I mentioned at the beginning of this devotion: the Good News of Jesus Christ is for everyone, everywhere. Salvation isn't just for a few, it's available for all. That's a powerful image, isn't it?
Yet, I think there is something deeper still. In fact, I think the truth of why we seek to find ourselves in this story is revealed in this little aphorism that has been turned into bumper stickers, billboards and internet memes: Wise Men Still Seek Him.
The reason the story of the magi looms so large in our imagination is because we know deep inside that seeking Jesus, pursuing Jesus, desiring to know more about Jesus is the only way that we will find true peace, true joy and true redemption. We find ourselves in the story because we know we belong there--following stars, offering gifts, kneeling, worshipping and acknowledging that there's a bigger story happening around us.
May you seek Jesus in this new year with a humble and hungry heart. May you embrace the truth of the Good News of Jesus Christ--that you are loved, chosen, redeemed and blessed. May you remember always that wise men, still seek him. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always.