The Epiphanic Arrival!
THE ADORATION OF THE MAGI
Very different from the simple shepherds were the wise men who came from
three different parts of the globe, a long journey that must have taken them well over a year. They were serious scholars who studied the heavens and the movement of the heavenly bodies. They were both astronomers and astrologers, and we have not seen their like since astronomy and astrology were separated many centuries ago.
The wise men were wise men indeed, men of great intellectual sophistication; but each one saw the birth of an unknown child as an event of unprecedented proportions, and each one left home to make the long trip to Judea because of what he had read in the movement of the planets and the stars. They understood that the birth of a single child could affect the entire universe, just as physicists today understand that all of creation is a single organism. Nothing happens in isolation. The crying of a baby sends sound waves to galaxies thousands of light years away.
So these ancient astronomers believed that something was happening in Bethlehem that would change the world. They met on the way, going first to Jerusalem and speaking to Herod, the king of Judea. "Where is the child who has been born the King of the Jews? We have seen his sign in the East and have come to worship him."
Herod knew nothing of the new king, and he tried to hide his immediate and frantic jealousy of a baby who might grow up to take over his throne. He sent the wise men on to Bethlehem, not far from Jerusalem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, come and tell me, that I may worship him also.”
The wise men went to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph and the child. Bethlehem was a little town, so they would have had no difficulty asking directions; and all eyes would have been drawn to them in their exotic garments, riding on magnificent horses, with a retinue of servants, and camels and other beasts.
The child himself was too young to be astonished, but Mary and Joseph were awed by this splendid visitation. First the simple shepherds and now these noble wise men— But what could be too great for a child born of Heaven, a child who would always carry a double nature, that of God and that of man.
The wonder of the Incarnation can only be accepted with awe. Jesus was wholly human, and Jesus was wholly divine. This is something that has baffled philosophers and theologians for two thousand years. Like love, it cannot be explained, it can only be rejoiced in. Did the wise men understand this Glorious Impossible? Perhaps they came close. They left gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh; and being warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their homes by another way.
~from “The Adoration of the Magi” in The Glorious Impossible by Madeline L’Engle
These wise ones are remembered as men, only three of them, and of "great import" as Pooh would say. We don't really know how many there were, nor if they were all men, but the number three is important in this story for Trinitarian reasons and the gifts they brought are too...Gold - for a king, Frankincense for worship and Myrrh for embalming - all descriptive of who and what this Child is to become and be a part of.
We know they were guided by a celestial event that they learned of from far far away, an event of which most of the people in the world were not, and one that they had studied and perhaps even predicted. We also know that their arrival brought an essential message to the Birth: that the Christ Child came into the world for all people, Jews and Gentiles alike, and that is perhaps the most important thing about them. The Great Reveal was that good news!
When my son asked my granddaughter why the wise men came to see the Baby Jesus, she said, "Because he was the gospel of the Lord." She's right! He was the Great Good News of God...God come to be one of ALL of us.
So I ask you as I asked myself this morning, Of what import is this Great Good News, this Holy Reveal, to you? What has been revealed to you this year as the wise ones arrive? What reveal are you searching for? and perhaps most especially, who are the wise ones in your world to whom you could turn?
We have until February 13th to wait, watch and listen for this Revelation. Then on February 14th, we go into the desert with Jesus as we consider how to go forward living into those Revelations.
Happy Epiphany, my friends.