THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD
By long standing sacred tradition Christians celebrate Christmas as a season, with the twelve days between Christmas and the Epiphany as one long “Christmas day.” The season ends with the Baptism of the Lord which is also the first Sunday of ordinary time and that takes place next Sunday. Christmas celebrations with friends and family, decorations, and all of the other means of rejoicing, should continue throughout the season. We can never rejoice in the Lord’s birth too much. As Christians, we will very often find ourselves living in contradiction to the styles and preferences of the present age. We should get very much used to the fact that we will face conflict among friends, and even at times within families, as we seek, more generously and more regularly, to live out and celebrate the mysteries of our redemption in Christ Jesus.
“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”(Is 60:1) Isaiah the prophet describes the glory of Jesus Christ, who is “full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father”(Jn 1:14), our Messiah. The prophet also foretells the reality of those first three wise men, who represent the kings and the peoples of the whole earth, all of whom are called to realize their full dignity as sons and daughters of God in worship and praise of him for his glory and goodness. “Above you (US) the Lord now rises and above you his glory appears. The nations come to your light and kings to your dawning brightness.” (Is 60:2-3)
The story of the magi or the three wise men carries with it an extraordinary richness. In it the evangelist teaches us about the mission of the Son of God. Jesus is ‘made manifest’ (epiphany = manifestation) as Messiah not only for his own people, but for those who come ‘from the east’, for all the peoples of the earth. At the same time this is the Messiah heralded by the prophets. The Scriptures are fulfilled.
This Messiah is born into danger, as the cruel tyrant, known to history as ‘Herod the Great’, is the first to threaten his life. The gift of myrrh alludes to the death he is to suffer. The presentation of gifts from the peoples of the world completes the Christmas scene. The magi represent the nations, but also the age-old quest among the peoples of the earth for true wisdom. This wisdom is found in Christ. May we not be afraid in the year that has just begun to seek the wisdom that God wants for us, that is the wisdom and the light of faith