So today is Epiphany, which is the feast to mark the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem, and in some ways it is my favourite part of the Christmas story.
I love the Magi because they confound all our expectations of who and what is to be found with Jesus. There is nothing really conventionally acceptable in Christian doctrine which can allow for the Magi, astrologers from a different culture and religion who seek the advice of the evil king Herod (good architect I know, but that doesnt really excuse the infanticide) and then turn up with some mysterious gifts and pop off home again.
There’s so much that doesnt make sense about the story, that I sometimes think it was written in afterwards, but either way its a brilliant spanner in the works of conventional thinking.
In terms of what doesnt make sense – well here’s a couple of things: You’ve got this kid with all these incredible prophecies/angelic visitations who is then visited by exotic foreign visitors with precious gifts – but a few years later everyone it seems like everyone has forgotten all about it (apart from good old Mary). I would have thought this would be fairly memorable really, what with the whole infanticide episode and everything.
Then there’s the gifts – what happened to them?
Anyway, I am sure there are more learned people out there with tenuous explanations for these mysteries, there’s certainly plenty of cranky conspiracy theories.
But what I love most about this story aside from the strangeness if it, is the way it opens the door to Jesus for those from non conventional backgrounds. Matthew, who first wrote about it, saw many gentiles (non Jews) join his community, and accept Jesus as King, Priest and Deity. This to me is what the Magi represent, the fact that those from many different backgrounds and ways of travelling can arrive at the point where they recognise Jesus as the King, the great high Priest and the one true God. Forget the religious trappings that surround Christianity, it’s about an encounter with Jesus, and a recognition of him outside of the usual surroundings of royalty, preisthood and divinity. He is to be found in the humble, out of the way place.
Lets not forget too that this gives rise to persecution, that the established powers, represented in this story by Herod, dont like this at all. Its great that these guys turn up, but a whole lot of death and pain follow them. Something to chew on I suppose.
There’s lots more to write, but the day is full of people spouting off about Epiphany, so I’ll let you get on. Have a peaceful day!