This is the day when the 'Gentile' world (that is the people who were not Jewish) arrived to see God made man revealed to them - or as one of the children so neatly put it it - the 'Wee Freaking of OrientR moment!
Jesus is the 'light of the world' and as Isaiah (some seven hundred years before Jesus) so neatly puts it: 'Arise, shine for your light has come ... And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.'
The Magi were alchemists, philosophers, thinkers and seekers of the truth and how good it is to see that in those days they were led to Jesus - so they were people who weren't in relationship with God but were open-minded enough to seek and ...? After all, that they worshipped Jesus is stated, that they decided to become one of His subjects is another issue (although there are sources which state that from this encounter seeds were sown). It's an interesting thing that whilst tradition gives us three (and even names them Caspar, Baltazar and Melchior*) the Isaiah passage speaks of two of the three gifts (gold and frankincense) and this lends support to the prophecy as well as bringing in the death element- all quite positive thus far I reckons.
So today is about revelation. Revelation to the Magi then and revelation to us now by the power of God's Holy Spirit (see the Ephesians passage) and another reference to light. Revelation and light, light and revelation: Simples!
And is is about a passing nod to the Holy Innocents (remember them just after Christmas?) as Herod learns of the child who is the Kings of ALL Kings, for when, 'When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him!" You'd better believe it for when Herod was troubled the EVERYBODY was troubled, and this is seen in the putting to death of the boys tow and under that we remember as 'Holy Innocents.'
I love the way that having seen and left their gifts the Magi leave by a different route so as to avoid fuelling the conflict and being drawn into it themselves - that's pretty wise I reckon!
So we find it all summed up in the words of today's collect:
O God, who by the leading of a star manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth:
mercifully grant that we, who know you now by faith, may at last behold your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
This should be our prayer for us and for those around us, that they would see the light and find the revelation of Jesus, the Christ, in each and every one of us.
So, as we bask in the light of His revelation, my prayer is exactly that for me, and for you and for those you know.
Isaiah 60: 1 - 6
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes all around, and see; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far, and your daughters shall be carried on the hip. Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and exult, because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall bring good news, the praises of the LORD.”
Ephesians 3: 1 - 12
“For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles - assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, show the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realised in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.”
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.” Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” “After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 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 worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned win a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.”
Here's a couple of hymns that fit the bill and, for many, make Epiphany rather special:
Post Communion Prayer
Lord God, the bright splendour whom the nations seek: may we who with the wise men have been drawn by your light discern the glory of your presence in your Son, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
* or variants thereof