Church Year · Epiphany · Magi · Wise Men

Epiphany – A whatany?

On Tuesday the Church around the world celebrated Epiphany – the day we recall the visit of the magi or wise men to Jesus, you can read it in Matthew chapter 2. We think we know the story, but I wonder if sometimes actually we remember the Christmas Card version of the story rather than the true biblical account.

For one thing they did not visit Jesus in the stable ‘they came to the house’ Matt2v11 – also no where does the Bible refer to them as Kings – just Magi and also there is no mention of how many of them there were or even that they were necessarily all men. Yes there were three gifts, but there could have been any number of men or indeed women.

The things we do know is that they were “Wise” yes the Bible only really refers to them as Magi, but the Magi were known in those time as people who studied, people who were learned, people who watched the stars and weather patterns and who could make predictions based on those observations.

But actually if we look at that biblical account of their reactions we can perhaps wonder where their wisdom got them.

Let us for a moment compare them to the shepherds who did visit Jesus in the stable. The shepherds saw the star, they heard the angels message and they did as they were bidden, they followed the star until it came to rest over the place of Jesus’ birth. There they worshipped him and then went back to the fields rejoicing.

The wise men on the other hand did things differently. They too saw the star and their wisdom told them that this was a sign of great importance, that it heralded the birth of the messiah. So they followed it. BUT their wisdom got the better of them.

They knew that Kings of Israel lived in Jerusalem, so instead of simply following the star as the shepherds did, they went to see Herod at his Palace. Herod even asks them where the promised saviour will be born and they can tell him – so they KNEW that they should be in Bethlehem, they knew that the the Palace was not the place to go – but their Wisdom dictated that the palace was the place to visit a King.

So the Wisdom of the wise men had three results –

1) they went to the wrong place.
2) it made them late.
3) as a direct result of their actions Herod unleashes an appalling infanticide against the Children of Bethlehem.

If the wise men had followed their hearts, rather than their heads they would have followed the star to the Holy Family. As it was they visited Herod and caused Herod’s attack on Bethlehem and the flight to Israel.

Food for thought I think…


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