A cold coming we had of it,
"Just the worst time of the year."
(T.S. Eliot, "Journey of the Magi") Epiphany, this 12th day of Christmas, remembers that "cold coming." And we wonder: What drove the Magi to make the daring journey? What, spiritually, does it mean? At home, wealthy and at ease, they were content with their scrolls and philosophical speculations, reading God's purposes in the heavens.
Epiphany means to show or make known. Spiritually, Christmas and Epiphany celebrate two births: one from the manger of peace and love and the other the arrival of the Magi, an announcement that Christ has come for all the world. Christmas symbolizes the beginning —not the ending —of a believer's difficult journey. Births are never complete in themselves: they but point to what this newborn will become. Let us not forget the sacrificial work and desperate end of this baby's life.
I've always been struck that God's angels sang "on earth peace among those whom he favors!" (Luke 2:14) to the shepherds, while God gave the news to the intellectual, astrologer Magi by a distant star. How often in my life have I been most deeply affected spiritually by friends who don't speculate —by those who simply believe? It's to these God seems to speak most clearly. And it is they, perhaps, who love God most completely. Nevertheless, smelly shepherds and wealthy wise men are equally welcome to the family of Christ.
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