Epiphany is upon us! This is the day we celebrate the magi coming to Jesus with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. It is also the last of the 12 days that follow Christmas, ending the season.
To better understand what is happening when the magi arrive from the east, we need to remember a prophecy from Isaiah 60: 1-2, 5-6:
For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.
Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice,
because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
A multitude of camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.
First, this prophecy was about a city, the city of Jerusalem to be precise.
Light was to come to Jerusalem; the glory of the Lord was to come to Jerusalem; gifts from the east were to come to Jerusalem.
Except they never did.
The prophesy was not fulfilled.
At least, it was not fulfilled in a city. The prophecy was fulfilled, instead, in a child.
Light is upon him and the glory of the Lord rises from within him and gifts from the east are brought to him.
This teaches us something so important about the new era the birth of Jesus ushers in.
As Christians, put our trust and faith and hope, not in any piece of land or country; we put our trust and faith and hope in the person of Jesus Christ. God moves across regional boundaries and peoples. He works everywhere.
It is Jesus who fulfills God’s prophecies; Jesus who fulfills God’s work.
The second thing to notice is that the original prophecy had gifts given of gold and frankincense, both very valuable and very impressive. Gold was for kings and frankincense was for worship.
But, as you well know, Jesus receives a third gift. He receives myrrh.
Myrrh was also very valuable but it was a horrible gift, for it was used to anoint a corpse.
This teaches us something so important about what kind of savior Jesus is.
He is king, yes, and he is to be worshiped, yes. But he is also sacrifice. It is not just muscles or money that have power; sacrifice has power as well.
As we celebrate the arrival of the magi and the end of Christmas, may we prioritize him over all others, bringing whatever gifts we have to lay at his feet so that we can “proclaim the praise of the Lord.”
Christ’s peace be with you this day,