Reflection on This Week’s Readings


A newborn baby often elicits “oohs” and “ahs” from its admirers and yet developmentally, may be doing nothing incredibly remarkable—only able to focus on objects only about 18 inches in front of its face and prone to stare at any shiny object. Nevertheless, a newborn is a miracle to behold, filled with wonder for the world around it and desiring nothing more than to be fed, held, rocked, nurtured, and loved.

The gifts of the magi direct us away from the cute, cuddly, cooing baby Jesus by pointing us to who Jesus really has come to be. The magi offer gold, a possession of kings; frankincense, used in ritual to indicate the presence of the deity; and myrrh, an oil used at the time of death as well as for anointing priests. By their gifts, the wise men reveal the identity of this child: the king before whom nations will bow, the anointed high priest of God, and the suffering servant who will die for the ones he has come to serve.

The “oohs” and “ahs” we offer as we celebrate the Epiphany of Our Lord are not simply for a cooing and cuddly baby Jesus but for a God who chooses to reveal God’s love and mercy by taking human form. On this day, we celebrate that God’s mercy is wider and deeper than we imagined and includes all people and all nations. All people—rich or poor, Gentile or Jew, straight or gay, male or female—are God’s treasure, the precious ones for whom God is willing to die. What do we bring to honor our Lord before whom we bow? We bring the treasure of our lives poured out in praise of God and in service to others.



The celebration of Epiphany (which means in Greek the manifestation of God) on January 6 (January 5 at St. Paul’s) was important in the Eastern church from the fourth century and was variously connected with the stories of Jesus’ birth, the visit of the magi, and Jesus’ baptism. In some places it was a primary occasion for baptisms. In some cultures, Epiphany, “Three Kings Day,” is the date of gift-giving. According to the three-year lectionary, Epiphany concludes attention to the infancy narratives with the story of the visit of the magi to the young Jesus, who is now residing in a house. The child Jesus is lauded as a king who is already showing himself forth to the nations.
This reading proclaims that even as a young child, Jesus is recognized as a king of the Jews who has significance for the entire globe. Even the sky shows new light. Not only Jews, but also people from other religions see God’s light in Jesus. Christians have seen their gifts to the poor and to the church as like the gifts of the magi. Herod’s threat is a down payment on the cross.
The lectionary appoints this poem from Isaiah because it served as a backdrop for Matthew as he wrote of the meaning of the birth of Jesus. The light becomes for Matthew the star, and the gold and frankincense are gifts that the magi present. Thus for Matthew the gifts of the magi affirm that Christ is the light that the poem from Isaiah described.
The reading is appropriate for Epiphany because it speaks of the revelation of the mystery of Christ. The magi saw the light, and now believers also see the wisdom of God revealed in the life of Christ. We celebrate that light in our worship, and we see Christ in the scriptures, in the bread and wine, and in one another.

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