We have finally reached the pinnacle of the Christmas season, the final of the Twelve Days of Christmas (the final 12 symbolizing the twelve points of belief in the Apostle’s Creed).
What is an Epiphany? A manifestation of some truth. In the case of Christians, it is the manifestation of the Truth, Jesus Christ, who is the Way the Truth and the Life. What is the effect of the Manifestation of Christ on those who come? Worship! Let us observe from Sacred Scripture:
There were two basic types who visited the manger of the Christ-Child: Shepherds and Wise Men. The Shepherds knew that they knew nothing, and yet were the first to be called by the Angel and the heavenly hosts. They came and worshipped, even though they were considered the lowest of the Jewish society of the time.
Then there were the Wise Men, who knew that they did not know everything. They were inherently curious, always seeking, always learning. One who thinks they know everything will think he has no need to investigate. But these wise men were wise in that they retained a measure of humility: They knew they did not know everything and took pleasure in searching and expanding their knowledge.
But even these, once they approached the Christ child, bowed down and worshipped. Could you imagine any king or wise man or dignitary today who would bow down and worship?
So, who were these “wise men”. Most likely, they were astrologers from Persia with a keen interest in the meaning and portents hidden in the things in the sky, the heavens. So when they saw this unusual star, they were drawn to follow it. Some scholars think that this star was an angel leading these Magi to the Christ child. Very often in ancient writings, stars were considered angels.
These Magi were the first Gentiles to be drawn to worship Christ. And this, along with the gifts they carried, showed the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy we read in our First Reading.
Isaiah in our First Reading talks about a “new Jerusalem” to which the nations – the Gentiles – shall go and worship the one true God. These were people who had no previous connection to God. These very people would be drawn to recognize and worship the One True God. This would have shocked those first century Jews, who considered themselves to be the chosen race, but who also misunderstood the role that they were meant to play in leading the nations to God. So God Himself would make sure that happened. Our Lord Himself even said that He wished that all would be saved and none should be lost. And so Isaiah’s prophecy would be fulfilled by the Magi who came from a foreign land to worship the Christ-child.
Our Gospel even said that they bowed down and worshipped. It is also from Isaiah’s prophecy that we equate these three wise men with kings. For kings were foretold to bow down and worship Christ, the Messiah. They recognized Who was worthy of their highest value and attention.
We read in our Gospel that these Magi returned to their own country by another route. Why? The path they took to get there was well worn. They knew all the pitfalls and the dangers along the way. Would it not have been easier for them to take them same way back? The enemy, Herod, also knew their route back to their homeland, and no doubt would have snagged them just as easily.
That is why, when we come to meet the Christ-child and recognize Him as our point of highest worth or value, that it behooves us to take another way, to change the direction of our lives – return home to God by another route. The enemy of our souls also knows the path we used to follow, and is ready to snag us, and drag us back to our old ways of sin. Sure, it would be easier for us to continue to do what we’ve always been doing, even though that way had led us further away from God. But Our Lord calls us to take a different way, to lead our lives by a different standard – His standard.
So, all are welcome – indeed called – to seek out Christ and follow him as our highest value. But once we commit – and it is a commitment – then we must take a new path and let go of our sinful ways. That is how Christ, our Savior will make His presence manifest in our lives.