Today is the Day of Epiphany, also known as Three Kings' Day, which marks the day the magi came to visit baby Jesus. I like to joke that the Day of Epiphany is the day the magi opened their credit card statement and realized just how much the gold, frankincense and myrrh had really cost them. But there is, of course, a deeper meaning to the day and a deeper significance to the story.
The Day of Epiphany was Jesus' first appearance to Gentiles. It is the first sign that Jesus is for everyone -- not just the pious; not just the Jews; not just the healthy, wealthy and strong; not just the people who have all the answers.
As Gentiles, the magi join the cast of unlikely characters that comprise the Christmas story. They join Mary, the unwed pregnant girl and Joseph, the carpenter -- who later become refugees in Egypt when Harod starts killing all the kids under 2. They join the shepherds, who were uneducated and poor and nomadic, the lowest rung on the socioeconomic ladder. They join Simeon and Anna, who lived in obscure devotion at the temple.
In 2000, the Church of England added a liturgical season called Epiphanytide. Instead of just observing the 12 days of Christmas, Epiphanytide extends for a total of 40 days, ending on February 2nd, the Feast of the Presentation.
I was excited to find out about Epiphanytide, because it gives us a chance to stay with this story a little longer, to mine the story for nuggets of truth and gold, and respond to what we find.
As I look at the story, I see that people respond to Jesus' presence with unity and humility. People of all genders, ethnicities, IQ's, and economic status meet at the manger. And they don't compete with or judge each other. They simply come and bow down.
Especially in the current political climate in America, we can so easily use our faith as a weapon to wield against other people who don't believe like we do. We can use it as a reason to exclude others instead of looking for ways to include. We can use our faith as a merit badge that we polish and proudly put on display. We can use our faith to give us bragging rights. We can use our faith to raise our self worth.
As we celebrate Three Kings' Day today, and as we stay with the story during Epiphanytide, I hope it reminds us that joining in the story of Jesus is not an opportunity for us to be proud, arrogant or angry at others who haven't joined the story (yet).
If we truly "get" the story of the Nativity, we'll have deep gratitude for the grace that God extends to the most unlikely people. We'll have new eyes to see the ways in which God is showing up in unexpected places at unexpected times. And with the magi and shepherds, we'll follow the single star with our heart, mind, body and soul. We'll come again and again to the manger where we lay everything at Jesus' feet, and bow down.