Three cheers for Epiphany! Today is the day we remember the story of the wise men/magi/camel-riding, gift-bearing mystery men from the East who traveled halfway across the known world to visit the Christ Child. I love the day so much I devoted an entire chapter to it in my book. Here’s a snippet:
“Most people who know this story [of Epiphany] zoom right past it, as if it’s a window display they have seen before. They have not stopped to peer inside, to notice the details, and to consider what it indicates about where the story of God might be heading. For most, these men and their camels are simply pieces people use to populate their nativity scenes, making the Jesus-in-the-manger barn scene look more crowded and important. Very few realize what a grandiose political statement it is to place ceramic painted figurines of pagan men holding gifts in front of this Jewish king. It is not simply holiday cheer; it is a prophetic statement about the kind of world God is creating. …Epiphany is the declaration that God is not just God of the Israelites but God of foreign pagan astrologers, too. Though God’s activity in the world began with one family, Jesus’ kingship begins with one world.”
W.H. Auden’s poem “For the Time Being” is quite long, but part of it chronicles the story of these strange travelers from the East. The last line of that section says, “To discover how to be human now is the reason we follow this star.” Despite all that separates us- time, geography, culture, even in this case religion- we all find a common home under our quest to live wholly human lives. This Epiphany eve, I’m giving thanks for the Child who brings us together in such beautifully unexpected ways, and who shows us the way home to true humanity.