[I am taking the 12-days of Christmas off. I hope you enjoy this repost from January 3, 2021.]
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Epiphany, celebrated on January 6, commemorates the adoration of Jesus by magi from the East. They had observed an astrological sign pointing to the birth of a Jewish king.
They set off following a certain star west to Jerusalem. The star patiently waited (twiddling its thumbs) for them to finish consulting with King Herod before leading them south to Bethlehem.
There they knelt before the child.
Some say the star of Bethlehem was the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. Some say it was a comet, a supernova, or a double occultation of Jupiter by the moon.
The star of Bethlehem is poetry. It’s Jewish poetry echoing the prophet Isaiah’s song that had been in the Jewish Top Ten for 500 years.
Arise, shine; for your light has come,
the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
Nations shall come to your light,
kings to the brightness of your dawn.
Lift up your eyes and look around;
they gather together, they come to you;
A multitude of camels shall cover you.
They shall bring gold and frankincense.
Violence shall no more be heard in your land,
nor devastation or destruction within your borders.
That’s a dream from a battered and beaten people, not unlike our own.
Imagine all the people sharing all the world.
We don’t need astronomers to verify the Bethlehem star any more than we need them to verify the star that appeared at the birth of Emperor Augustus.
We don’t need gynecologists to verify the virgin birth of Jesus any more than we need them to verify the virgin birth of Romulus and Remus.
And when a poet says: My love is a rose, we don’t need a botanist.
It’s poetry. It’s devotional language. We use it all the time. My granddaughter is the most beautiful child in the world! We don’t need beauty pageant judges.
The beautiful child of Bethlehem would become not a king but a servant, one who knelt before others to wash their feet. This child of Judaism would do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.
The world doesn’t need a king or messiah. The world needs servants of love.
If you follow the star of Bethlehem today it will lead you to yourself. It will show you that you are a beautiful child of God.
That’s an epiphany.
And that will bring you to your knees.