You’ve seen the Sunday School nativities, where three children wrapped in satin sheets walk down the center aisle of the sanctuary to greet baby doll Jesus. You’ve undoubtedly sung songs about the star appearing over Bethlehem. And you’ve received (if not purchased) Christmas cards with bright foil detail depicting the star over the manger.
But the magi’s visit was about more than delivering gold, frankincense, and myrrh. In fact, it rocked the expectations of the Jews who awaited their Messiah.
In case you didn’t know, today—January 6th—is the day the global church celebrates Epiphany, the arrival of the wise men to pay homage to the baby Jesus.
It’s easy to get distracted by some historical inaccuracies regarding common modern depictions of the wise men, including their number, their names, the timing of their arrival, and more. But don’t miss the significance of their story. The arrival of the magi was a historically notable event that put a welcome mat out for Gentiles to enter into relationship with Christ!
The Gospel of Matthew tells its predominantly Jewish readers that the Christ child’s first visitors were “from the East.” This little phrase carried significant weight to Israelites. Could it be that the Messiah had come? And not only to the Jew?
The gifts the magi brought indicate they knew the Divine nature of the child they had traveled so far to meet: gold was suitable for a King, frankincense was appropriate for a priest, and myrrh indicated that—even from birth—his death was anticipated.
It’s also worth noting that these gifts represented the finest treasures of the magi’s homeland.
It’s like when we take a team of short-term missionaries to one of our fields. While visiting Russia, it’s nearly compulsory to purchase a matroshka (or nesting doll) set and one of their gorgeous, hand painted, black lacquer boxes. Visitors to India can’t help but grab some bangles and ornate paper maché boxes while they’re there. And clearly, our Kenyan teams buy carved wooden animals and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.
To enter into and appreciate a culture is to take some of the best of it with you as a gift. Scripture tells us that all nations and tribes will one day worship King Jesus. I believe the magi offered us a foreshadow of that as the first Gentiles, the first of the global family to worship Jesus with the most precious gifts of their native land.
This is why the church worldwide commemorates the arrival of the wise men; it is a celebration of the Gentiles’ inclusion in God’s great redemption story!
If you’d like to join the festivities, you can take a cue from some of our brothers and sisters around the globe.
Many Hispanic and European believers remind one other to emulate the wise men’s pursuit of Jesus—even to unlikely places—by sharing a King’s cake, a special baked good with a tiny, plastic baby Jesus inside. Everyone looks for Jesus as they share the sweet treat.
Christians in Germany and elsewhere often practice “The Magi’s Blessing.” Just as the wise men blessed the home in which they found the Babe, guests often bless the home in which they celebrate it by reading a liturgy or putting a blessing above the door. You can learn more of the details of this tradition here: https://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php/159118.pdf
In Puerto Rico, children place hay under their beds for the camels to eat when the wise men come to visit and they ask the kings to leave them gifts.
And of course, like nearly any holiday, many Christians around the world celebrate Epiphany with candlelight, incense, and feasting!
How you celebrate is not so much the issue. But won’t you make a point of thanking God today that He not only redeemed the Israelites, but reaches out to all?
This month, as you pray for The Boaz Project:
-Thank God for His great love for every tribe and nation.
-Express gratitude for His protection over our short-term teams who’ve served in Russia and India within the last month.
-Praise God for a smooth inspection of Comeback Ministry’s Children’s Home after so much opposition from the government.
-Pray for Nastya as she assumes leadership of The Boaz Project’s day-to-day operations in Vladimir, Russia.
Believing in miracles,
The Boaz Project, Inc.
Wow! So much to learn in one blog post! I have never heard of Epiphany day, or maybe I have and had no idea what it was. I did not know that the day the magi visited Jesus was a celebrated day. I never associated the magi’s visit to Jesus with the welcoming in of the gentiles into the Kingdom of God. Less importantly, but still very interesting, is that I never knew that “king” cake had a christian origin, and the name “king” was for Jesus. I never knew that the baby was for baby Jesus. Thank you for this blog! Jan 6th will be a remembered and treasured day from now on! It’s also very interesting to see how countries of the world celebrate this day differently in their own cultural way:)
thanks April, as usual an articulate and to the point interpretation of the Messiah’s coming & impact on the world. peace.
April, thank you for sharing, giving encouragement to do more, share more, pray much much more. Your beautiful heart, reaching out, letting the Holy Spirit lead you in leading others.
I miss seeing you and your Mom at CCML now that we’ve moved