“After hearing King (Herod), they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”— (Matthew 2:9-11)
Last week, the Christian community celebrated the Feast of the Three Kings, sometimes referred to in Biblical accounts as the visit of the Magi or wise men. This story marks an Epiphany for all of mankind.
Webster’s dictionary suggests several meanings for Epiphany, but I found the following most appropriate: “illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure”.
We begin a new year filled with hope, and a resolve to build a better world founded on faith in the unwavering promises of God the Incarnate. That is, the Word, which is God became flesh. From out of the absolute power of the Creator, God willed Creation to become, and it was perfect, it was good!
However, soon after God’s perfect Creation, darkness fell upon mankind, and sin entered our world.
Since the beginning, the history of humankind has been plunged in darkness. Human nature, being what it is, has been corrupted with self-centeredness and selfishness.
Even in the darkest of the pandemic, we found ourselves desperately clinging to our materialism and mortality, knowing fully well in our heart of hearts that redemption from the bondage of sin pulls on the far end from the opposite forces of evil in the Universe.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:1-5)
So from the very dark ages of history, God set in place a plan of redemption for a fallen people. For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
This is the miracle of the Emmanuel, of God, or the Word with us. In the vulnerability of the infant, Jesus, God causes a major rewind in history. Here, He reintroduces the promise of redemption and says, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world! Behold the innocent, who is without sin, sacrificed at the altar intended for the ungodly.”
In offering Jesus to bear the punishment for the world ‘s sin, God waived His sovereign protections and came as the vulnerable Son of God! And by the Emmanuel, Jesus brought back the light to a world of darkness!
“The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, Upon them a Light dawned.” (Matt.4 :16)
The coming of the Three Kings, bearing, gifts for the Infant King represents Mankind’s universal Epiphany. For as they came and lay prostate before Divine Royalty, mankind, represented by these magi, had its “Aha!” moment.
The coming of the Kings marked God’s great historical rewind of the history of Creation. By the event of the Emmanuel, “God with Us”, the Heavenly Father established the heavenly bridge for reconciliation between the Creator and His fallen Created.
This documented event in human history illustrates a coming of consciousness in the collective conscience of man of the “illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure” that indeed, the declaration that “God so loved the world!”, was beginning to take shape in the cosmos!
This is the Promise of the Incarnation! It lays bear the hope that Christ will die for mankind to defeat death.
Scholars have expounded on the gifts of choice which the Three Kings offered to the Christ-child. These gifts, obviously deliberately chosen from their respective places of origin were things of great value. In the first place, it is reflective of the honor in which they revered, “Emmanuel”.
Notwithstanding the humble circumstances of Jesus’ birth, these learned men were gifted with the discernment that they were in the presence of holiness. Historically, this divine discernment would transcend to all of mankind. In turn, it would pave the way for a sense of thanksgiving and gratitude.
Aside from the deliberate choice of gifts, the magi are represented as coming from the wide reaches of the world.
Thus, they not only found themselves in a, disparate, but common journey, drawn by the bright star in their night’s skies, they were drawn to a, spiritual truth which transcended their cultural or even religious backgrounds.
Scholars write that the three gifts represented spiritual meanings as well: gold was a symbol of recognizing the kingship of Christ on earth, frankincense (an incense) was used to anoint deity, and myrrh (an embalming oil) was a prophetic symbol of the sacrificial death this “Emmanuel” would undergo for the redemption of man.
“The gifts of the Magi illuminate the different aspects of Christ’s identity. He is king, he is God, and, in his marvelous grace, he died, so that we might live.”
As the Magi actively pursued Jesus, so too should we follow Christ without hesitation, letting him be our guiding light out of the darkness of our souls. Our pursuit of Christ requires that, as the new year begins, we offer Him our equivalent gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh from out of our lives.
In 1941, American composer Katherine Kennicott Davis wrote the popular Christmas song, The Little Drummer Boy. As the story of the song goes, this drummer boy ended up paying homage to Jesus with the Three Kings, but he brought no gift for the King. Then from an inspiration in his heart, he began to play his drum for the baby. The rhythm of his drumming soothed the child, and even Mary nodded her approval.
Today, we can live out our Epiphany of God’s revelation, by directing our lives to march to the beat of Christ’s drum.
“What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring Him a lamb; If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; Yet what can I give Him: I’ll give, Him my heart.” (Poem by Christina Rossetti, published in 1905).
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