Today, January 6th, is Epiphany.
Epiphany observes and celebrates the day that the Magi bowed before King Jesus and gave Him gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Remember that story about the Wise Men? Remember the song?
Hey. Let’s sing it together:
7am wakin’ up in the morning
Gotta be fresh gotta go downstairs
Gotta have my bowl, gotta have cereal,
Seein’ everything the time is goin’
SORRY. Wrong song. I mean:
We Three Kings of Orient Are
Bearing gifts, we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following Yonder Star
It’s Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday
I think we all see what I did there. I’m not impressed, either.
Couplea fun facts. First, I discovered that the Greek word for Wise Men (the KJV translation) is actually Magos — or Magi. Magi were well educated astrologers/astronomers who were experts in all things sky-related. They knew the stars as well as one could back in the year 0. (Actually, it was probably somewhere around 2 B.C., but we’ll save that post for another day — maybe Friday).
Gotta get down on Friday.
So, while we usually call them “Wise Men”, they were, in fact, wise in one particular discipline: astronomy. They were scientists of the sky. Those banners that we sometimes put up in front of our churches that say “Wise Men Still Seek Him” are much catchier than the more accurate “Ancient Astronomers Who Looked At the Stars Through Cracks Between Their Fingers Still Seek Him.”
And we’re not sure how many Magi there were. We typically attribute the number three, but that’s only because there are three gifts mentioned. There may have been only two Magi. Or 7.
7am wakin’ up in the morning.
Gold is for a King. Frankincense is a symbol of deity. Myrrh is a reminder of His world-changing death and resurrection. Another tradition suggests that the gifts were only medicinal in nature. Incense and myrrh were as commonly used as Tylenol™ and Motrin™. Gold was as common then as gift cards at Christmas. The symbolism has several different interpretations and are all a part of the rich tapestry of church history: enlightening and sometimes a bit strange.
Trivial details aside, let me point out the reason you should care about January 6. Just as Christmas falls every year on December 25th, marking the arrival of Jesus, Epiphany falls on January 6 every year, and we celebrate the fact that the King of the Jews came for everyone — Jew, Gentile, Rich, Poor, Trafficked, Free, Women, Men, and whoever else you might name. Emmanuel is with us, and the world is being slowly overwhelmed with Everlasting Light.
Until His Kingdom comes, we revel in the Light. Finally, when the King returns, it will be a party like no other.
Partyin’, Partyin’. Fun. Fun. Fun. Fun.
Quite frankly, this is all very good news. Jesus came for you. The King will go to great lengths to save His subjects — even by subjecting Himself to a tortuous death. Admission to the party is free, but the cost to throw this party is exhorbitantly high.
At Christmas, we celebrate that Jesus is born. On Epiphany, we celebrate that Jesus was born for everyone.
As the song (We Three Kings) finishes, so shall we:
Glorious now, behold Him arise
King and God and sacrifice.
Sounds through the earth and skies.