The Day of Epiphany, January 6, 2024
The Day of Epiphany, January 6, 2024
When confronted with the Christ child, those wise men—esteemed and honored in their own country—fell on their faces. They prostrated themselves. Throughout the Old Testament, this expression is commonly used to denote worship or the posture of worship. The posture can be as simple as kneeling and bowing forward until the forehead touches the floor or it can be as radical as stretching out prone on the floor, face pressed into the dirt. Either way, the position assumes an extreme vulnerability: the eyes and attention are taken off the person of worship, the back of the neck is bared, and the life is placed in the person of worship’s control. Essentially, the worshipper is saying, “My life is in your hands. Take it if you will.” The one worshipped had only to give the order… make the signal… and attendants would easily behead the prostrate one.
Those wise men from the east recognized in the baby Jesus what Simeon would prophesy: that in this child lay the salvation of the world. Their lives, indeed, were in that child’s hands. Once they had recognized the authority of the Christ child and presented themselves as vulnerable to him, then they presented their gifts of obeisance—the gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts represented the emptying of themselves in humility before the honor and greatness of the one to whom they had just presented their lives.
So now, you. We have come to the end of the twelve days of Christmas and all their times of gift-giving, family feasting, going and coming, and celebratory worship. This humble account of the wise men… the magi… the travelers… who recognized in the baby Jesus the salvation of the world… who fell down before him and gave him their lives… who in humility emptied themselves of their treasures… this humble account, when held up against the extravagance of our own self-gratifying celebrations cannot help but judge such celebrations… and judge them poorly.
Table Talk: Discuss whether Christmas extravagance honors ourselves or the Christ child.
Pray: Father, forgive me my self-indulgence. Amen
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him. 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
6 And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.
7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him. 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.