The Epiphany, the celebration of the Magi visiting the Christ child, is often overlooked. The egg nog has spoiled, the manger has been packed away, and the Christmas presents have already been ignored. Yes, the Christ child has been born among the animals in the stable to Mary and Joseph. The heavenly angles sang and the star illuminated the way, but all the crèche players haven’t had their time to shine. The wise men and their camels deserve their 15 minutes of fame too.
I’m not exactly sure why I am so enamored by the Feast of the Epiphany. When I was a Faith Formation Coordinator, I planned activities and fun for all ages to celebrate Feast of the Epiphany. Two out of three years it was cancelled due to winter weather. A sign from God? Who knows? But I do know more facts about a camel than one person ever should.
For me, it was a tale of romance and majesty. Proof of God’s grand design. Those great men watched the heavens for a sign that the savior had been born. They recognized God’s call and they knew they had a part to play. What, perhaps, theyThese men were wealthy and, I can only guess, influential. They most likely had families, and businesses, and responsibilities in the community. And they left it all, risking encounters with wild animals, being overcome by thieves, and the very important aspect of finding water to keep themselves and their rides alive. What must people have thought? Had they been drugged? Where they headed for the looney bin? And yet the three men stepped out in faith.
Think of this…they were one of the first groups of people to recognize Jesus as the King of Kings. And they brought along gifts of great price. Had these gifts been given from their wealthy coffers, or had they sacrificed for and saved for this important king their whole lives? What had they done during their long journey? Did they think the heat of the sun was mocking them or making their travel more difficult? How often did they suffer thirst? Or were their thoughts focused on this king, the greatest king of all times, and how they would greet him?
Then they asked Herod about the star they saw and the prophecy that was foretold. Did they realize that this step would cause an infanticide? Did they see the hatred and fear that was in Herod’s heart that day?
I don’t think it’s by coincidence that these three men came from afar, from another culture. As we struggle to welcome all those who are created in God’s image, do we ever wonder if someone from another culture may have been sent with an important message from God?
They road camels. God created this desert creature to be surprising adaptable: long eyelashes and fur in their ears to keep out the sand that constantly flew around them, feet that could move across the high temperatures of the sand and stay steady when it shifted, fur that could keep them both warm and cool each day, a hump of fat so they were equipped to travel many miles without requiring much food or water, and even lips and a mouth than could withstand eating the thorny food which was the sometimes the only food available. (Hey, I warned you that I knew too much about camels.)
Imagine yourself as Mary and Joseph. One day these unusual men show up on your doorstep. You don’t even recognize them, the culture they came from, or understand the words coming from their lips. They offer great, valuable treasures. And, most puzzling, they recognized something in your son that very few had before. You remember the song of the angels, John leaping in his mother’s womb for joy, the lowly shepherds who came to pay him homage. And again you wonder what else God has in store for you. He certainly delivers surprises in the most peculiar way.
And then, just before they leave, they warn you of a dream. You can’t quite understand it, but you know that your son’s life is in grave danger. Is this true? Could God be calling you to flee to a foreign land, leaving all of your family and possessions behind? Again, you embark on a lonely journey and keep reminding yourself that God will prevail.
Finally, what about YOU? Have you been waiting for a sign and recognized that it was from God? Have you ever stepped out in faith even when the journey’s end was unknown? Have you recognized God in people from other places and cultures? Have you ever been moved to give a substantial treasure? Have you been asked to play a part in God’s plan that will be remembered for all times?
So, maybe this year you can keep that manger scene up after the Christmas tree has come down. Maybe you can leave those wise men for their own spotlight. They could appear after Christmas and slowly, ever so slowly, make their way to the Christ Child. And during that journey, allow some quiet time for your own epiphany.
Copyright 2019 Cindy Clefisch