Rev. Peter A. Olsen
Rev. Rachel M. Zarnke
From the Pastor's Desk
I've been writing, preaching and teaching on the Magi all Advent- their story has come alive for me this year and has influenced how I understand and experience the miracle of the incarnation. It seems only fitting, then, that I would reflect on Epiphany in our January newsletter. Chronologically speaking, this is when they actually appear on scene.
History has no way of knowing exactly when the Magi reached the Baby Jesus (or how many wise men there really were, for that matter!), but their appearance before our Lord is celebrated on January 6th. This is where we get the "twelve days of Christmas" from; the Christmas seasons lasts from December 25th through January 5th, which provides us with time to reflect on what our incarnated God means to us. What does it mean that we serve a God who loved us so much, he took on flesh to show us the way? How does it shape our understanding of the law to know that God assumed our humanly limitations and lived among us under this law? The Christmas season offers a space for these reflections and insight into our faith.
Then, on January 6th, we celebrate the Magi's arrival at the manger in Bethlehem, which we call Epiphany. This is particularly theologically important because it symbolizes the extension of Christ's gift to the gentiles, non-Jews. The Jewish shepherds were invited to come see Christ instantly, just as God's gift of redemption was always meant for His chosen Jewish people. However, it was only later that the Magi, the non-Jews, met up with Jesus. Similarly, we gentiles were not initially included in God's salvific promise.
The profound details of our familiar nativity story open up before our eyes as we search the depth of their meaning. The Jewish people were never that far from God, and thus the Jewish shepherds needed to only climb up the hill to Bethlehem to see the Christ child on his birth. The gentiles, however, were much further away. The Magi had to trek long distances, across harsh terrain, braving the unknown in order to finally make it into Christ's presence- but they did eventually arrive. This Epiphany, we have so much to pray on and give thanks for. We give thanks for a God who loved all His people, even those who were considerably far off. We give thanks for a God who calls out to us and guides us home. We give thanks for the gift we receive in Christ, and we give thanks for our ability to share that gift with the world. Amen!