When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. (Matthew 2:10-12)
Dear Wise Ones,
The twelfth day of Christmas is here. We celebrate now the arrival of sages, wise ones from faraway places, finally completing their journey to behold a babe born in Bethlehem. What a sight they must have been to Jesus’ adoring parents, sure thinking, “What in world and who in the world is this coming now?”
One translation calls these wise ones scholars, yet they were more than academicians. They were emotionally and spiritually attuned to the most important things in the universe: things that were compelling enough to send them far from their homes, to Bethlehem, to see a babe. Surely it was a long journey for all of them. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that when they arrived “they were overwhelmed with joy.” Their joy caused them to bend their knees in adoration, to open their chests, and offer Jesus the finest treasures of the world.
I believe the wise ones lingered awhile, perhaps a few days to behold the One they had journeyed so far to see. I believe also that they remained there until they knew it was time for them to return home to their regular studies and duties.
The acknowledgement of Epiphany is more significant to those in some of our churches. Some Baptists and other Christians joyfully celebrate “Three Kings Day” or El Dia de los Reyes. To the church at large, Epiphany is understood as the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, to those understood as outsiders. Because the wise ones came from faraway and outside places, and were daring enough to go to a remote town in Palestine millennia ago, we too come all these years later, to offer him our best.
As we put our nativity sets back into their storage boxes until next Christmas, may we not do so to simply return back to life as usual? The wise ones had another epiphany before they departed Bethlehem, an understanding that in order to preserve the One they treasured, as well as their own lives, they needed to alter their routes back to their respective homes in order to avoid an erratic and power hungry emperor. May we also have the insight and courage to not simply pay homage to those with earthly powers, but to remember first the One who compels us out of our comfortable homes, to follow a star that will lead us to a Savior. We may sometimes need to use other roads, but we do so in order to remain faithful to God who gives us insight, strength and faith for the living these days. That makes the inconvenience of using less familiar roads more than worth it.
Happy New Year.