Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor
Volume VII, Issue II
Epiphany, Another Forgotten Season
Celebrated by the Western Church on January 6th, Epiphany celebrates the revelation of Christ to the Nations, as pictured by the visitation of the Magi. Portrayed as three Eastern kings astride camels, they follow the Christmas star to worship the newborn King. Here is a profound telling of truth that is often lost in its cultural wrappings. If ever there was a celebration needed for today, it is Epiphany!
The biblical identification for these pilgrims is Magi. The Magi are an interesting group in temselves, originating in a hereditary priesthood of the Medes (the ancestors of modern day Kurds). They were installed as religious leaders and policy advisors to the Persian court by Darius and here they actually make their first appearance in Holy Writ. Daniel, carried into exile from the fallen kingdom of Judea, is assigned to this group when he surpasses the rest of them in his service to the king. Daniel correctly fortold the return of the exiles seventy years in the future.
Though he served a secular king and kingdom, Daniel never lost his connection to G-d and Jerusalem. His quarters had a window facing Jerusalem and he was 'busted' for praying when the king decreed that all his citizens bow only to him. Daniel's deliverance from this decree's punishment, by a Divine intervention, is an often told story by people of Faith. What must be conjectured, however, is the influence this man of Faith might have had on his fellow wizards.
Daniel never returned to Jerusalem, though he never forgot her. He grew old and died as a stranger in a strange land. Though he walked the halls of power in Persia, his citizenship remained in the Land of Promise. His book ends with descriptions of things far into the future, and is silent about the later life of Daniel himself. One might safely assume that he remained in the company of the Magi and continued to serve the Persian court.
A young spiritually minded person would have sought out men like Daniel as mentors. Thus it is highly likely that the hope of the coming King was wrapped into the fabric of Daniel's life and work in such a way that his apprentices would preserve it. Many years later it propelled some of them on a long and perilous journey to find that King. There is no Scriptural reference saying there were only three. That may be an assumption based on the mention of three specific gifts they brought; Gold Frankincense and Myrr.
And what did they find? A Child and his mother, ordinary in their appearance perhaps, but marked by Heavenly purpose! Picture the scene, if you will, of mighty clerics, who direct the affairs of empire by their counsel bowing before a woman and an infant!
Epiphany compells us to wrap our minds and hearts around ancient truth and promise. Epiphany compells us to fight the myopia of contemporary culture and look for the Hand of the Divine! Epiphany compells us to awaken from our slumber and if we hear the voice of G-d, to LISTEN! Epiphany is that discovery so wonderful it is a sin to conceal it. It is a truth that carries a blessing for ALL who will hear it and heed it.
So, as the world around us marks the beginning of a new year and marks down the merchandise of Christmas past, it is really time to continue unwrapping the wonder of G-d's redemptive relationship with His children. Old truths must be pondered, but the promise we find there demands action. The voice of G-d must be answered. History, you see, is not some endless cycle. It leads us on a journey to find a specific destination. The voice of the Divine speaks of far more than some warm feeling of self-actualization. It calls us to participate in the ushering in of a Greater Kingdom!
C. S. Lewis captured the hope and the message so well in this thought from "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe:"
"When Adam’s flesh and Adam’s bone,
Sit at Cair Paravel in throne,
The evil time will be over and done."
Spoken to four rather ordinary children, the extaordinary hope of Aslan's rule creates a feeling of thrilled anticipation. Does the knowledge of the unfulfilled prophecies of G-d's Eternal Kingdom create in us today that feeling as well?
Epiphany's Meaning for Today
Around the world, the hope of Christ's Eternal Kingdom fires the passion of Christians in diverse and difficult situations. Coptic Christians in Egypt share this hope with hidden house church groups in China and North Korea. In Nigeria the faithful watch their churches destroyed, knowing that an Eternal Jerusalem awaits them.
Twelve men hiding in an upper room were propelled outward one Pentecost long ago to share that hope. These reluctant witnesses found themselves empowered by the Holy Spirit as they went. At first glance, history seems to tell us that the church eventually divided into many factions... today many at the tips of these branches hold tight to their distinctives, but miss the branching and rooting of a great tree. Today there are many distinctive groups within Christianity, but has the essential message survived? Next week we will take a good look at how essential truth has indeed flowed like the lifeblood of this great tree.