Thursday, January 6, 2011

Random Epiphany Ruminations

The Feast of Epiphany, the Feast of Three Kings, by whatever name it is called, it is today, January 6, 2011. In previous years, congregations I have served have marked this feast with an evening Service of the Word, including celebration of the Eucharist, but not this year. Sadly, there seemed to be little interest in it. Attendance has never been that great, but I always enjoyed leading the service.

I have thought it would be fun for worshipers to go outside after worship and, with a powerful home telescope, to engage in some star gazing, but that has never happened.

I am generally careful to stick to name the Gospel According to Matthew gives to the visitors of the Christ Child—Magi. They were not necessarily Kings. Nor were they necessarily wise. Nor were they all men. Some of them could have been female. Nor were there necessarily three of them. There were at least two but there could have been more, as many as three, four, five, or more.

Read Matthew 2:1-12 for yourself, without reading it through the lenses of carols, cantatas, plays, stories, or other cultural glosses. Be sure to read the footnotes that explain “wise men” is, in the Greek, Magi.

I think of the Magi as Babylonian (or perhaps Zoroastrian) astrologers/astronomers, who followed a star according to their star chart inspired universal planetary horoscope . . . that is if there really were Magi visiting the manger. The account occurs only in Matthew and is not essential to the Gospel story. On the other hand, I think the Gospel story would be impoverished without it.

I think some of the best ruminations on the Magi has come from John Shelby Spong, which tells you a lot about where I am coming from.

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