The Season of Epiphany should be one of the most joyful the life of every Christian. The story of the Wise Men, the star that led them, and the personalities involved all have one message to proclaim: that of the public presence of Christ in most unique way. From this one event, the manifestation of Christ to the world, people have come from the ends of the earth ever since to worship that same Christ.
When you analyze this story, it is not really necessary to consider the details that are included in the story. One of the lessons of this event is that man is a pilgrim in search of God. This search had greater meaning for man when Christ manifested Himself to the world. Epiphany is about man searching for God and finding Him in Christ. There are so many beautiful contrasts in this gospel. Herod is described by the Gospel writer as powerful in great splendor. Christ is portrayed as almost helpless. Herod was considered to be crafty. Christ was guileless. Herod had wealth. Christ was in poverty. But the message is not a study contrasts. It is a Gospel story that points out that men started centuries ago on a pilgrimage to find Christ. It is a story of the inevitable search that goes on in the life of each person find God. It is the story that goes on in your life and mine, that personal touch of God on earth.
The Epiphany is that personal reminder that we are all pilgrims on the journey that leads us to God. It is a journey that is filled with difficulties and hazards. It is a journey that will be quite lonely. I am sure those whom we call the Wise Men experienced the same human feelings and sacrifices, but their pains and difficulties were forgotten once they were in the presence of God. And that which happened to them can happen to us.
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is lie that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him… then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, 10, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
Matthew, 2:1-2, 7-11
Journey of the Magi
'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For the journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins,
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death,
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)