The nativity scene is complete on Sunday–the festival of the Epiphany-when the wisemen from the east arrive, late, of course. After all, they are wise men, and they think too much, take circuitous routes, take neat and detailed notes, They calculate and cogitate all the way to Bethlehem. (Recall that the shepherds dropped their staffs and ran when the angels announced Jesus’ birth.)
Jesus is not only a blessing to Israel, he is a light to the nations as well. Jesus is not only a blessing to the simple side of ourselves, the trusting, believing soul in each of us. He is a blessing to the skeptical, number-crunching, all-business side of ourselves as well. The wise men stand for people like us: the over-educated, over-scheduled, too-important types that we are, most of the time. Matthew tells us that the wisemen were overjoyed when they finally found Jesus. Then their spirits could rest. They bowed down and worshiped him, just as the shepherds did.
Epiphany has been loaded up with many meanings, shifting and evolving, over the years, in the Christian church east and west. This should not surprise us, since the characters of the wisemen are international, cross-cultural, and, as we like to say today, “diverse” and “inclusive”. We’ll hear about some of the traditions, customs and commemorations surrounding Epiphany on Sunday. Kim Canning will tell about some of the traditions of Epiphany from around the world, especially those involving children. Then our own children will help us “see” the wisemen, following the star, as we sing an Epiphany hymn.
In the relatively brief history of the Lutheran Church in the United States, Epiphany has been a season in which we emphasize world missions. Our ELCA has missionaries all around the world, serving people in the name of Jesus. Right after the service on Sunday we will ritualize this out-reaching part of the Christian message as we burn the Christmas greens. The light of Christ that warmed our hearts on Christmas Eve blazes out to the nations, and to the natural world, not with domination, new rules and commands (as it has so often done over the Christian centuries) but with deep humility and a spirit of service.
Remember that we will share a potluck lunch. Bring something to share. Kim has prepared an Epiphany activity for the children.