“When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him.” – Matthew 2:10-11
It was first celebrated, even before December 25th was, as early as the late second century. Epiphany, January 6th, has been acknowledged in the church for 18 centuries, at least as the day celebrating the coming of the Magi to the very side of our incarnate Savior and King of Kings, and also as a day acknowledging Jesus’ baptism, the beginning of his public ministry in the world. Tomorrow is this day called Epiphany since at least 200 AD (by Clement), and in the Eastern Church still celebrated as Christmas.
Commercially, in America, the Christmas season now begins even before Thanksgiving to lengthen the-buying-of-gifts-season. Separating the commercial from spiritual worship and remembrance is a peculiar discipline of the individual Christian, together with his fellow Christians. Eschewing the meaningful worship of the Christ-child because of the gaudy commercialization of Christmas is literally “throwing the baby out with the bath-water.” Sanctifying worship of the Advent of our Lord and Savior can still be enjoyed through personal discipline, and not be blotted out by the secularism and craziness of a pagan world. It is wittingly or unwittingly the purpose of pagan revelry to ignore and even denigrate the spiritual meaningfulness of sacred celebration and worship, whether at Advent/Christmas, or Lent, or Holy Week, or Easter. The birth and resurrection of our personal Savior and King is a source of great joy and spiritual refreshment to every believer. Do not allow the unbelieving world to take it away from you!
The account of the coming of the Magi, along with the other recorded events in the life of our Lord, were not written down in Scripture to be forgotten in the future life of believers through the centuries leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus. They were written to keep our fallible memory fresh and our devotion sure as we wait for the coming of our King from heaven. It was not necessary for our remembrance of the accounts of the shepherds or the Magi to be repeated in each Gospel. It was sufficient to have it recorded once in separate Gospels.
The journey of the Magi from a far distance out of a Gentile world, to recognize the Savior of the whole world, a light to all the nations, to people of every tribe, language, and culture, is a prophesied event whose fulfillment testifies to the truth of the Scriptures. It solidifies your belief in the Spirit-breathed truth of revelation to your mind and heart of exactly who Jesus is and what his Gospel means to you. These Magi came seeking a King; they found him and they worshipped him; and they will be united to him as their Savior and Lord for eternity.
Only a few would have the privilege of personally coming to his infant side, or a much larger crowd to the foot of his cross, or, again, a much smaller family of believers to see the empty tomb and later place their fingers in the wounds of his side and hands and feet, over 500 eyewitnesses according to the Apostle Paul, or see him ascend into heaven, but they are the personal representatives of you, as though you were there as well. The accounts of Spirit-breathed Scripture take you there as your faith encompasses these events. Real to you, loved in your heart, grasped by your mind, never to be forgotten! Your faith can take you to the manger, to the house in Bethlehem, to the temple in Jerusalem, to Calvary, to the empty tomb, to the mountain of his ascension. But you will also be present at his return, along with every believer! Faith is as mysterious as it is real. It can take you to the manger, to the cross, to the empty tomb; and it will ensure your presence at his glorious return.
Relish the actual event of Epiphany, of these Magi, wise, important men, coming on a months long, arduous journey, to worship their new born king. Picture being there tomorrow as your faith encounters the Matthew 2 historical description. And worship the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, your own Savior from your sin, and your Redeemer for eternity. Your arms will one day actually hug him!
“Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain, Gold I bring to crown Him again, King forever, ceasing never, over us all to reign. O star of wonder, star of night, star with royal beauty bright, westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light.”
(2nd verse of John Henry Hopkins Jr.’s hymn, “We Three Kings,” 1857)
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