January 6, 2018

An Epiphany Message from the Dean

The Feast of the Epiphany commemorates the visit of the Magi (“Wise Ones”), bringing symbolic gifts to the child that recognize his status (gold befits royalty); his heavenly origin and nature (frankincense – incense symbolizing the presence of the divine), and myrrh pointing to his death (myrrh was used to embalm).

The Magi appear only in the Gospel of Matthew’s account of events surrounding the birth of Jesus. It is not entirely clear whether the Gospel author was using the appearance of the Magi as a literary device or whether the account of the visit refers to an actual event. The Gospels are written not as newspaper accounts but as theological documents pointing to the coming of God as a human being to visit and redeem a lost and broken humanity.

The Wise Ones in Matthew’s Gospel are described as stargazers, astronomers/astrologers who closely watched the heavens for signs. Observing the heavens was the Wise Ones’ workaday world and they paid close attention!

Part of the meaning of the account of the Wise Ones visit for you and me and our daily life, is the importance of taking seriously the ordinary, routine and everydayness of our lives.

The Good News of Christmas is that God-is-with-us; not just in the dramatic or catastrophic events of life, but also in our daily activities and the routine of family life and work. It is in the crucible of the ordinary and routine that we perhaps most clearly demonstrate our conviction that God is indeed with us.

Do I take seriously the presence of others in my life – whether they be spouse, family or the person sitting next to me on the bus? Do I take for granted those friends or family or co-workers entrusted to my care; or do I show my thankfulness for their presence in demonstrable ways? And what about the people we may never see – the homeless, the hungry, the refugee? And what is our responsibility toward those who suffer prejudice or violence? All are entrusted to our care as Christians (see Baptismal Vows on pages 304-305 of The Book of Common Prayer).

The appearance of God amid the ordinariness of life also raises the question of how we act as stewards in the responsible use of the material resources entrusted to our care, including the care of the environment. We are also called by God-with-us to strive for justice and peace, to be reconcilers and to uphold the dignity of every person.

Perhaps we call the three visitors to the divine Child “Wise Ones” because they knew that God appears not only in the heavens or amid the stars above – remote, removed from everyday life. Instead, God makes the decisive appearance in human life – your life and mine, and the life of the world amid the routine of human life – birth and death, poverty, family life, with the animals standing by, a parent’s love, unexpected visitors and in our relationships with others.

A blessed Epiphany Season to you! May you and I be known as people who show divine love in our everyday life!