My Random Thoughts on the Epiphany

Today, 6 January, is the Feast of the Epiphany, the day that ends Christmastide. The Epiphany is one of those parts of the Christian Faith that in our modern world has lost its relevance and meaning… which pisses me off.

The story of the Epiphany comes from Matthew 2 with the visit of a number of Wise Men/Magi from the East to Christ to pay homage to him as the newborn King of the Jews. For many that might mean a “Well, Duh!” moment, but let me re-iterate that:

In the Gospel according to St. Matthew (who was a born and raised Jew) Foreigners Gentiles come to pay homage to Christ by giving him:

  • Gold, since this is a fitting gift for a King as he was King of the Jews
  • Frankincense, since he is High Priest, and
  • Myrrh, because he was to die and be buried thus needing  something to be anointed with

The importance of what is happening with this also comes in the traditional alternative name for the Epiphany that we find in the Book of Common Prayer: Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.

The Epiphany is about salvation, specifically the salvation of the Gentiles. Epiphany is about salvation now being extended to Gentiles, those persons who were previously not part of God’s chosen people.

The Traditional Epistle reading for this feast comes from Chapter 3 of Saint Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. St. Paul (someone born and raised as a Jew, but outside of the Holy Land) speaks about the importance of the Gospel being able to be spread among all nations, and that the promise of salvation is available to all.

The Traditional Collect for this feast explicitly states this as well:

O GOD, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the Gentiles: Mercifully grant, that we, which know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Now, I might shock you with this revelation: I am not certain that the visit of the Magi actually occurred. I am willing to believe that St. Matthew (or someone else) invented the this part of the gospel narrative. However, the theological truth remains in place:

Salvation in Christ is available to all mankind

and not just the descendants of Abraham who were God’s original chosen people.

St. Peter (again, another born and raised Jew) said in his First Letter

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. 1 Peter 2:9

I could go on ad nauseam citing the New Testament on this with point but the New Testament is full of examples of people who were born and raised Jews, believing that they were God’s only chosen people because of their bloodline going back to Abraham, suddenly going out and spreading the Word of God to non-Jews.

It is also important that we are seeing this in St. Matthew’s Gospel. We view this Gospel as one being written by someone who was (here I say it again) born and raised a Jew, and his target audience is his fellow Jews. St. Matthew finishes his Gospel account by stating the Great Commission:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ Matthew 28:19-20

Salvation in Christ is available to all mankind

Amen.

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