Three Kings follow a star to find the Christ child; our journey is much shorter
by Sister Carolyn Zahringer
What is the meaning of the word Epiphany?
- The manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (Mt. 2:1-12)
- a festival commemorating the Epiphany on January 6
- a manifestation of a divine or supernatural being
- a moment when you suddenly feel that you understand, or suddenly become conscious of something
(Google online definition of Epiphany)
Our Church tradition has given the three royal visitors to Bethlehem names and assigned countries of origin to each – Balthasar, King of Arabia; Melchior, King of Persia; Caspar, King of India. Each brought a precious gift: gold, to signify this baby to be a king; frankincense, a perfume to honor this child; myrrh, an anointing oil to confirm he is one of us, God incarnate.
These visitors, were they Kings, Magi, or Astrologers, followed a star that led them to the place where the Holy Family found lodging and protection from the elements when there was “no room in the inn.” These travelers journeyed for days through the light of day and the darkness of night, taking breaks to rest along the way but always keeping their eye on the “star” that shone. If these visitors were important leaders in their countries, we can surmise they had traveling companions to assist them in their journey. In those days travel was by donkey, horse, camel or foot. Most of our stories and artwork tell us they traveled on camels.
Meister Eckhart’s wisdom for our pondering during this Christmas season gives us “food” for thought.
“You need not seek him here or there, for he is no further
than the door of your heart; there he stands patiently
awaiting whoever is ready to open up and let him in.”
Christmas celebrates the incarnation of God’s son to journey through this human life to show the way. Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (Jn. 14:6)
- What do these words of Jesus invite us to discover?
- What is the invitation of this Christmas season?
- What “ah-ha” moments will be discovered by entering into the graces of epiphany moments in 2020?
"Ah-ha!" :) The little town of Bethlehem was not "still" at the time of JESUS' birth, as the traditional, romanticized carol would have us imagine and believe. How could it have been? A census was taking place! People were coming from all over - not just the usual busy travel, trade, and business of the day. But coming by droves!! That's the whole point of why Joseph could not find an available room for his laboring wife!
According to historical research, Bethlehem was "an important staging and rest stop for travelers from Syria and Palestine going to Egypt. It was a border city of mid-Palestine and an outpost looking out towards the desert. The Philistines had a garrison stationed in Bethlehem; it was a strong strategic point." Bethlehem was also significant to the Hebrews because it is where Rachel, a Jewish matriarch, and long barren wife of Jacob, gave birth to Benjamin. It is where she died, and where Jacob buried her, all around 1740 BC. http://bethlehem-city.org/ "History of Bethlehem" http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12521-rachel
So ..... Why is all this historical research into the Birth of Christ important? Because it makes JESUS, Mary, and Joseph - and all they encountered in their very real, normal, every day human lives, even more real! And more fully human! I mean, can you imagine Mary being considered 'unclean' for 40 days after the birth of JESUS?! Yet, that's how it was. http://www.thebodyissacred.org/body/childbirth.asp Even Luke 2:22 makes this point: "When the time came for them to be purified as laid down by the Law of Moses, they took him (Jesus) up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord."
When I stop to consider the times and customs, I must conclude that with word spreading like wildfire of the 'special boy-child' born of lowly means in Bethlehem, women and children, care-givers and helpers all came to see Mary, JESUS, and Joseph, too. Not just men shepherds or men magi. But common, ordinary, every day people -- homemakers, seamstresses, cooks, bakers, farmers -- along with their children, families, neighbors, came to see the 'holy, wondrous child,' too. I think it's realistic to think that the innkeepers and staff must have even come. And that's how God wanted it .... and that's how God still wants it. And God wants us to behold each child - and every person - as "holy, wondrous gift; child-of-God." And to treat each one as just - and justly so. And that, for me, is "Epiphany 20 / 20 ... Year of NEW Awareness, NEW Insight, NEW Understanding, Clarity of Vision!!"