This Sunday we will celebrate the feast of the Epiphany. Technically, The Epiphany is January 6 (right after the 12 days of Christmas), but, since it is one of the major feasts of the church year, we are transferring the celebration to Sunday. Interestingly, the Eastern Orthodox traditions celebrate the birth of Jesus on January 6, in addition to his baptism, which we will celebrate next Sunday.
On the feast of the Epiphany, which comes from the Greek word meaning “manifestation,” we remember the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus, bringing their gifts and honoring him as the “King of the Jews.” Thus, in persons of the Magi, Jesus is “manifested” to the Gentiles. In fact, in Latin America, the feast is usually called “Día de los Reyes Magos” (“Day of the Magi Kings”). This story is only told in Matthew’s gospel, which, importantly, was written to a group of Jewish Christians. While there are many interesting things about the Magi, the most important thing about them is that they were Gentiles. In the arc of Matthew’s gospel, Gentiles are seeking out Jesus in chapter 2, and then, in chapter 28, Jesus’ disciples are commanded to go into all the world, making disciples of “all nations,” which can also be translated as “all the Gentiles.” Thus, God’s desire for the Gentiles to come to him through Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, is deeply rooted in Matthew, which, according to most scholars, is the most Jewish of the gospels.
As we prepare for worship, please do prepare to celebrate this good news—in Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, God desires all people to come to him. Just as the Magi came to worship Jesus, then, so let us come with hearts longing to do the same.