This coming Sunday falls on New Year’s Day and towards the end of the week we celebrate in the Church the feats of the Epiphany which ends the twelve days of Christmas. At Epiphany, we remember the transforming act of the gifts given by the Magi (Wise-man, Kings, Astrologers). We don’t really know how many wise men there were in the year that Jesus was born; tradition says that there were three.
They are often remembered as kings— maybe because they brought such royal gifts. Some remember them as astrologers— because they were following a star. They might remind some of the three mysterious guests who visited Abraham. Whichever tradition we draw from for our story of the Magi, we only know one thing for certain: they were foreigners who travelled from far away to proclaim the miracle of the Christ child. We know that they travelled and gave with joy.
What do we do when we are overwhelmed with joy? We respond in some way. Often people offer gifts. This is what we are told the Magi did. Now, anyone who has attended a few Christmas pageants along the way is aware of this part of the story: gold (symbolising security and wealth), frankincense (symbolising power), and myrrh (symbolising death).
The Magi offer these costly, meaningful gifts. When their gifts are offered, they have completed their journey. So now, they go back to their lives; they go back home. But as is often the case the Christian Scriptures always have layers of meaning. The Magi go back a different way to avoid Herod. They now know that Jesus is a sign of God’s love for the world. Herod is about hatred; Jesus is about love. So, they go back a different way. Once we have met Jesus Christ, we go about our lives in a different way.
We have that opportunity to make changes at the secular time of New Year, at the beginning of the New Year. However, the Epiphany of the Lord is a tale of transformation, and, at the beginning of a calendar year Christians celebrate a time that challenges us to transform our lives. It is a time that offers to us the possibility, once again, for our own transformation. We turn, we repent, we focus, we reflect, and we seek the face of God. We are changed; we are transformed.
This well-known story about gifts received and later shared reminds us as well that transformation is not our achievement but God’s intervention, God’s gift. We are reminded we can meet Jesus and that meeting can change us. Maybe you have been in a congregation all your life, or maybe you come from some secular place that seems far away, or maybe God has given you some clues, some signs, and you have found yourself in a place of worship at this time of year.
So, a path is set before to and we are asked to focus which is often called turning our eyes upon Jesus. We are to reflect and receive—and through that we have the promise of being overwhelmed with joy. We can return, to our world, and enter this New Year in a different way. So, the challenge for us is to set out on such a journey, a journey of transformation.