The message of Jesus spread to most of the world in an incredibly short period of time in the first three centuries, and without the use of violence. The message of Jesus has certainly been distorted over the centuries in many corners of the church, but his birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection still stand at the center of Christian identity.
Historically, the event of Magi visiting Jesus from the far East happened significantly later than the visits of the shepherds and angels. Why would these scientist-philosophers show up with gifts? A lot of scholars have done their best to make sense of it all, and there is some fascinating literature on the subject. Clearly they were convinced that the baby was important, that Jesus would change world history. And he has, revealing the true nature of God-self.
The writer of the Gospel of Matthew really wanted his readers to know to what lengths the Magi went to find Jesus, and we are left with the question of what to make of it. Amidst all the things that can be written on the subject, I would posit one big idea: in Matthew, we discover, once again, God’s great concern not only for the people of Israel, but for the people of the whole world.
Somehow, through a matrix of God’s active Holy Spirit, heartfelt evangelism, church planting, catechism, calculated missionary work, and lots of prayer, the message of Jesus got to many of us here in our 21st century world, right into the daily mix of our lives. We know Jesus through the testimony of all these generations of people who have been responding to him. And the Holy Spirit gives us strength to respond with our lives to this testimony seen not only in Scripture but in world history.
Over the centuries, every generation of Christians have had their opportunity to respond well to the message of Jesus. His message to love our neighbors and our enemies; his message that when we treat a poor or needy stranger well, we treat Jesus himself well; his message that God loves the world a whole lot.
At Epiphany, the exciting reality is that we have received the good news of God made present in the Son, Jesus. We have learned the clearest picture of God, which is the Son, Jesus. We have been presented with who God tells us we are: sisters and brothers with Jesus, children of God.
This Epiphany [Friday, Jan. 6th] let’s behold the mystery of God made flesh [Jesus!] and live accordingly.