2013 is one of those rare years when we actually get to celebrate Epiphany during Epiphany!
That isn’t nearly as unusual as it sounds. Here’s why. Like Christmas and Pentecost, Epiphany refers both to a season and a day. The difference is that Pentecost Day is always on a Sunday and the world stops for Christmas Day whenever it occurs. They get plenty of attention every year.
But when Epiphany Day – January 6 – falls on a weekday, it usually gets no notice. This year, though, January 6 is a Sunday, so Epiphany Day will get the attention it deserves—and it does deserve attention, because it is the only time we focus on the Wise Men (Matthew 2:1-12).
Most Nativity scenes, of course, include the Wise Men right there in the stable with the shepherds, but their journey took up to two years. That’s why the church calendar pushes their story to the first day after the Christmas season ends. Unfortunately, that just means their story is missed most years.
That’s too bad, because the Wise Men’s journey was a remarkable adventure in faith! It may seem reasonable to us that they would go to such lengths to see Jesus. He was the Son of God, after all. But they did not know that. They had only seen a special star that convinced them that a new King of the Jews had been born. Once they reached Jerusalem, they had to ask King Herod for further directions, because they did not know exactly where they were going or what they would find there.
What could have motivated them to leave home and pursue their journey for months on end? When the star finally stopped over a little house in Bethlehem, Matthew says they “rejoiced with a very great joy.” What did they see in this little child that made their hearts overflow?
The only possible explanation is that God graced them with faith to see beyond the realities in front of them to a greater possibility, to a profound promise that God had broken into this world in a new, unexpected way. That gift of faith drove them to persevere until they bowed before Jesus and gave him gifts fit for a king.
That is an important witness, because you and I are not so different from the Wise Men. We also are driven to seek Jesus and to rejoice in him only because God graces us with faith to see beyond the realities in front of us to a greater possibility, to the promise that what we see is not all that we get. There is more, so much more, a divine dimension to reality that was forever connected to our own in the birth of Jesus and granted to us by his death and resurrection.
This year, as we marvel at the faith and perseverance of the Wise Men on Epiphany Day, we can also marvel at the grace God grants us to believe in Christ Jesus and persevere in lives of faith. That’s why it is so great to be able to celebrate Epiphany during Epiphany!
Grace and peace,
Pastor Scott Grorud