Monday, December 30, 2019

Epiphany: Messiah Revealed to The World

This week is the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, celebrating the occasion when “magi from the east” visited the child Jesus to bring Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

To clear up some misconceptions, so we don’t equate well-known holiday songs with divine Scripture, nowhere in Matthew’s gospel does it say there were three visitors from the east, and nowhere does it say they were kings. The word “magi” refers to members of a caste of priests, astrologers, and magicians in ancient Media and Persia. (But, on the other hand, I suppose the song sounds better the way it is, rather than, “We indeterminate number of priests, astrologers, and/or magicians of Media and Persia ARE; Bearing gifts we traverse aFAR…”)
Also, to clear up another misconception, the magi did not arrive at the stable just behind the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth. (And, according to some popular presentations, they did not arrive just ahead of Santa Claus, a little drummer boy, a reindeer with a red nose, a snowman named Frosty, and a guy named George Bailey looking for an angel named Clarence. Some Christmas pageants are quite extravagant productions.)

After their long journey—many, many months at a minimum—the magi finally found Jesus, and as Matthew explains, “on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother” (emphasis added; house, not stable). When Herod tried to eliminate a possible successor to his throne, he ordered the deaths of all boys two years old and under, not just newborn infants.

Anyway, besides bringing expensive gifts, those wise men from the east (however many there actually were) were the first Gentiles to pay homage to Jesus. The word epiphany means “to show forth,” or “to make manifest,” or “to appear.” This event was the first time God’s plan of salvation through the Messiah was shown forth, or made manifest to people other than Jews.
So, needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), the whole world should be very joyful and grateful that God’s gift of salvation through faith in Jesus is made available to everyone, not just a certain group or groups. Thank God!

Another interesting aspect of these events is the part God’s revelation plays. We can know a lot about God by observing the world around us. We can understand that God is real, and that He’s the Creator of everything, and that there is some sort of moral code—a concept of good and evil—governing the universe (Romans 1:19-20). But we can’t know too many specifics. We can’t know the mind of God and His particular desires for our lives unless He tells us.

The way He tells us in this day and age is through the Holy Spirit, through the Scriptures, through His Church. But none of these would be possible without Jesus. The Incarnation, the second person of the Holy Trinity lowering Himself to become a man, the event we’ve been focusing on these past few weeks (or if you’re in the retail business, these past few months), is the supreme way God reveals His mind and His desires to mankind. Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
The Incarnation is truly the Epiphany for all the world. It is the showing forth, the appearance, the manifestation of the Creator to His beloved creatures, humanity.

As amazing as it may seem, we CAN know the mind of God and we CAN know His will for our lives. And it’s all because of Jesus. He revealed it all to us.

As we begin a new year, is there any better resolution to make than to seek God’s mind, seek His will, and then do it? I don’t think so.

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