Epiphany, God’s baby announcement?

You know, I’ve heard it’s bad form to leave your  Christmas tree and lights up past the holiday of Epiphany. Does it count if the tree is naked, except for the really high stuff and all the lights are unplugged? As much as I love the smell of dried tree and the ornate cob web firmly strapping the tree to the ceiling… it really is time to put away Christmas.

So, you ask, what’s Epiphany about anyway? Well, it is one of those lesser known holy days (at least to us free form evangelicals who pay little attention to the church calendar) that is kind of the end cap of the season of Advent. Epiphany is the celebration of when the wise men journeyed from the east in order to pay their respects to the new King of the Jews. The account is found in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 2.

I’ve been chewing on this story for a couple of days now, and just had the most wonderful time with God this morning. Maybe a little bit of an epiphany? So, I thought I’d share a few of my thoughts.

God’s Revelation to the Nations

The awesomeness of this holiday is that God revealed the birth of His Son to the gentile wise men, through the appearance of a star. I like to think of it as a little birth announcement, set up into the sky for the whole world to see:

“Welcome baby Jesus”

“Proud parents: Mary and …. the Almighty God, Creator of Heaven and Earth”

“7 lbs, 20 and 1/2 inches”

“Nursery colors: brown and straw yellow”

Or perhaps it was a little more like this:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands. (Psalm 19:1)

Hitching a ride with the Wise Men

I hope you will take a moment to look at the passage in Matthew chapter 2. I kind of want to look a little more at the wise men than at the actual story.

As I was thinking about the journey of these wise men from foreign lands to see the new baby King, I was reminded of  the description of Solomon’s wisdom in 1 Kings 4. His wisdom was so deep and wide that it was sought after and respected by the kings of the world. They sent their wise men (and sometimes traveled themselves) to listen and learn from Solomon.

I wonder if these wise men expected a similar situation? Did they hope to gain wisdom to bring back to their country? Had they been waiting for the next King of Jews to come and revive the wisdom of the Jewish God?

For a few minutes this morning I just tried to put myself in their… umm, fancy slippers? What must it have been like to ride into Jerusalem only to find a nation oppressed by foreign rule. The wise men must have exchanged quiet glances as they realized that King Herod was surprised by their visit and had to consult his own wise men to find out where the baby King would have been born. I wonder if they sensed his fake tone of respect when he asked the wise men to report their findings back to him? I have a feeling they knew they were in danger and were happy to get the heck out of there.

I wonder what it was like when they finally found little Jesus? They respectfully presented their offerings and worshiped Him. Then they went on their way. They had knelt at the tiny toes of the Messiah.

The Wise or Foolish King?

The truth is, these men were really the only wise men to recognize the wisdom of God in Jesus. They did so, because God revealed the truth to them through His creation. The teachers of the law and intellectuals of Jesus’  time did not see Jesus as the Messiah. They thought the crucifixion proved their point. They mocked him and thought he was just another fool.

This is where God touched my heart this morning. What good is wisdom if it doesn’t lead you to Christ? What good is knowledge of the scriptures if you can’t recognize that the crucifixion was the fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan? The apostle Paul picks up on this in his first letter to the Corinthians. He says, “the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength (1 Cor 1:25).”

This probably means more to me right now because I spent quite a bit of time studying the book of Proverbs for a class last semester. I love the book of Proverbs and have found it very useful in my life. God’s wisdom in the book of Proverbs has taught me how to be a good wife, mother, and just a decent person. I think God was saying to me today, “don’t forget about the gospel.” You have to start with Christ. The gospel reveals the Father and makes a relationship with our Creator available to  us. Once we have that, the fullness of His wisdom and power can be worked out in our lives.

Sorry, this has gone on a little longer than I wanted. But I want to leave you with the prayer that is recommended in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. If you want to know how to celebrate some of these lesser known holidays, this is a great book to get your mind and heart in the right place.

Collect for The Epiphany, Book of Common Prayer:

“O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen”

Thanks friends, for a good first week at HolyLeisure.net! I love your feedback. I’m back to school this weekend and look forward to sharing some of the things I’m learning. If you have any private comments or want to share a topic with me, please email me at leisurelythoughts@gmail.com.

Stork Boy photo courtesy of William Arthur Fine Stationary. For public use on Flickr. http://flic.kr/p/8su9QK

Wisdom from Super Grandma

My family is blessed to have our very own “Super Grandma”. Grandma Dena is now 93 years old and resides in a very nice assisted living facility about 15 minutes from our house. In the past year she has become more sedentary, so we try to visit her in the comfort of her home as often as possible. One of the favorite parts of my week is to attend her “seated” exercise class with her and then go back to her room for a short visit. I’ll tell you, she can pump that 2 lb. hand weight like a champ. I often wonder if she will out-live us all.

Last week my boys and I went to exercise with her (they were still on winter break) and then we went back up to her room. Grandma set the boys up in her craft-matic adjustable bed (it’s amazing how high those lift off the ground) along with a pile of rootbeer barrels and chocolate. While they watched TV, grandma and I had a nice conversation about all the new things we had been up to.

“Yes, the kids are still in 4th and 2nd grade.”

“Of course, they are the smartest and most handsome students in their class.”

“Yes, Paul (my husband and her grandson) is very brilliant and a wonderful man.”

“No, we haven’t been camping lately, but we are looking forward to some more ski days in the coming weeks.”

At this point I decided to ask Grandma a question. “Grandma, at the age of 93, what kind of advice or wisdom would you give to a young person today?”

This is what she said:

“Keep active for as long as you can.”

“Don’t expect someone else to do all the work for you… at the very least, you can make your own bed in the morning.”

So, I offer those brief words of wisdom to you. I’m pretty sure we can all pump a 2 lb. hand weight twice a week and make our beds in the morning, but will we? I hope to glean a little more wisdom from Grandma in the coming weeks. I’m so thankful for our special relationship.