Happy Epiphany or is it Merry Epiphany? I always get so confused on the proper way to wish you a holy, awe-filled, and mysterious Epiphany. I pray you have read Matthew 2:1-12. I pray you have held in your hands the three Wise Ones. I pray you are finding ways to stay open to God’s grace guiding and love leading you in these early days of 2021.
Even though Matthew doesn’t specify, tradition teaches us that there are three Wise Men. We assumed three because there are three gifts mentioned and it would not be wise to show up uninvited at a home without a hostess gift, right? (I am joking here). The church even went so far as to give them names; Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar. Good old Balthazar always the one with a quick joke and Melchior could sing like an angel and Caspar was such a friendly ghost. Just kidding.
If you Google their names you might discover, “Melchior was the name of a Persian scholar; Caspar was said to have been from India; and Balthazar was the name a Babylonian scholar. There is a variation on the name Casper, Gasper, which is found in the book, The Acts of Thomas (as in the dude in the Bible who doubted). The earliest we find these names are in a Greek manuscript probably composed in Alexandria around 500, and which has been translated into Latin. Just so you know, Syrian Christians name the Magi: Larvandad, Gushnasaph, and Hormisdas
Our imaginations have filled in the spaces between the small words of print in your scriptures. Our imaginations have written in the margins of our Bibles. This is good. What is difficult, even damaging, is when what we as humans have created becomes written in stone traditions that can never be challenged or changed. Rather, I pray we would continue to let scripture awaken our imaginations and for us to write our own words in the spaces between and the margins of our Bibles.
For me, I find the visit of the Wise Ones fascinating because people came from afar to worship Jesus and perhaps those who lived next-door didn’t even notice. How often do I miss the holy hovering, humming, knocking on the door of my heart looking for room? I find it fascinating that the powers-that-be, Herod, is threatened by a baby? Really? Yet, those in power are often afraid of losing power and will do anything to cling tightly to it. That truth is as current as the headlines you read this morning. I find it fascinating that the Wise Ones return home by another way. This year, I long for new roads and new ways of being. But like the Wise Ones those might not just appear. We, you and I, make the road by walking. Step-by-step. Day-by-day. At the same time, the road has always been there. It was paved by someone before us, who we may never know.
On this Epiphany, I ask you to prayerfully ponder the roads you are traveling. I ask for you to stay open to God’s revealing presence here and now. One prayer tradition on Epiphany is to take a star (either a wooden one or one cut out of paper) and write one word on it. Here is a list to get your imagination going:
Kindness Compassion Love
Openness Understanding Laughter
Discipleship Service Depth
Prayerfulness Playfulness Praise
Gentleness Acceptance Imagination
Friendship Contentment Creativity
Courage Confidence Clarity
Strength Thoughtfulness Patience
Forgiveness Tenderness Enthusiasm
Sharing Healing Rejoicing
Justice Mercy Humility
Wisdom Wholeness Wonder
Curiosity Graciousness Flexibility
Generosity Steadfastness Serenity
Humor Vision Thankfulness
There are 45 words above. If you add seven of your own, there would be one for each week this year. Play with these words. See which ones sing to your heart and which ones cause you to think, “Meh…not so much.” Why? Why do you have the response, reaction you do to these words? Words create worlds and have meaning within us. Hold these words. You may want to write them on stars or a piece of paper or on a Sunday for each week this year. Let the language of faith guide you and ground you and stir/speak/sing within you this day. Happy and Merry Epiphany.