As we begin each new year it is to be expected that Christmas is still on our minds, after all the first five days of January are the last five days of Christmas. Thus we enter each new year celebrating the birth of Christ, with Christmas decorations still up and perhaps some unwrapped gifts still under the tree. One of the central decorations in many homes is the Nativity scene depicting the various visitors Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus received.
Many of us are used to seeing the Magi in our Nativity scenes, right alongside the shepherds and their sheep. However by their inclusion we forget that the Magi and Shepherds visited the baby Jesus at different times. Matthew’s Gospel puts the visitation of the Magi after Jesus’ birth, most likely months, or maybe even a year later. It is for this reason that the church celebrates the visitation of the Magi on January 6th, Epiphany, after the 12 days of Christmas have passed. The Magi were wise men who came from the east looking for the newborn King of the Jews. They followed a star that led them to Judea and eventually to Bethlehem. The Magi knew of this prophesied birth and upon seeing the star, the sign of this king’s birth, they sought him out.
In Advent and Christmas we remember that Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. We recall that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We celebrate that God came to us in the baby Jesus, not just to show us a better way to live, but to give us life, life abundant, life eternal. This celebration is for me the most beautiful part of our faith. But after Christmas comes Epiphany and the story of the Magi. The Magi who saw the star and followed, seeking out the newborn king. Epiphany is an invitation to look for the signs of God’s presence in our world. Epiphany is an invitation to seek out God in our midst.
As we begin this new year we are aware of what lies before us; a continuing pandemic, but one with a vaccine, and thus an end in sight. Before us lie the ever present challenges of racism, climate change, poverty, hunger, homelessness, and so much more. Before us lie the everyday joys and challenges of life; family, friends, school, work, and much more. Before us lies the lifelong pilgrimage of faith; where we seek to be open to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, that we might be formed in the image of Christ and together be the body of Christ in the world. In all that lies before us may we follow the example of the Magi, seeking God wherever the signs may point; be they grand or mundane, expected or unexpected.
Friends God is in our midst, let us seek after God with faith, reverence, joy, and most of all love.