Note: I mentioned in my Word of the Year post that I wanted to observe the Liturgical Year to some extent this year. In honor of Epiphany this Sunday, I offer these brief reflections.
Ever since I was a little kid, I remember going to church on Heilige Drei Konige (a.k.a. Three Kings’ Day a.k.a. Epiphany). I always hated it, because (a) church at the Old Colony was incredibly boring, since I didn’t understand the German sermon; and (b) we had to miss a day of school if it fell on a weekday. As a kid, I loved school, so this was a travesty; moreover, it made me a weirdo, missing school to go to church when nobody else did except the other Mennonite kids. In high school and university, missing school meant I had to catch up on school work the next day. Boo.
(This year, it falls on a Sunday, meaning I heaved a big sigh of relief for nerdy Mennonite kids everywhere).
I never understood why the heck we celebrated that day. So three wise guys came and visited baby Jesus and gave him so weird (and very impractical) presents. That hardly seemed like a reason to miss school and go to church. Lots of cool things happened in Jesus’ days; we didn’t celebrate all of them. Why not celebrate Jesus Turns Water Into Wine Day, or Jesus Visits Zaccheus Day, or Jesus Curses the Fig Tree Day? (These aren’t real holidays, right? I’m new to this whole Liturgical Year thing…)
I never got the significance of Three Kings Day. That is, until I read about it in Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals. According to the authors, this day is important because we celebrate the civil disobedience of the Magi. These early rebels defied the violent, earthly king (Herod) to honour a different kind of King entirely — a humble baby, born of a peasant girl, come to save the world by loving and dying.
If you think about it, these mysterious Gentiles from the East are an inspiring example to us. We’ve been called to be a peculiar people, members of a Kingdom not of this world. Though the world is ruled by fearsome kings, with the power to slaughter a whole village of innocent babies just to eliminate the threat of a competitor, we are called to follow a different kind of King. A meek and humble King. An all-powerful King who made himself vulnerable, who enters into our pain and suffering.
I find myself in confused awe: who were these guys, anyway? How did they have to confidence to defy such a king as Herod, when all they had to go by was a star in the sky and a dream? (And, honestly, how did they even muster enough zeal to make the trip in the first place?! That’s a long, uncomfortable trip by camel.) What in the world gave them such courage? Were they CRAZY? That Herod was INSANE, murdering his own relatives left and right. Like, seriously: who sees a star and think, “I bet if we follow that star, we’ll find the Lord of the Universe, and we won’t let anyone stop us, not even a ruthlessly violent king”?
This Epiphany, I’ll be re-reading the story, and I want to take some time to learn a bit more about these mysterious men. I want to spend some time reflecting on their mad courage. Because if I’m going to be crazy, I want to be crazy like the Magi.
(But don’t worry. I won’t be celebrating with acts of civil disobedience merely for the sake of civil disobedience. But I can’t promise I’ll go out of my way to avoid it, either…).
Have you ever celebrating the Epiphany? What have you done?
Photo credit: therevsteve