Epiphany commemorates the arrival of the Magi at the home of Christ. The feast is often overshadowed by all the celebrations of Christmas and is noted by most as simply the end of the Christmas season. We run the risk of forgetting the Wise Men, their gifts to Jesus, and the message they send to us all.
The Magi are only mentioned in Matthew's gospel,
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
The Jews had been waiting for a Messiah.These wise men from far lands who studied the stars, recognized that a king had been born in Bethlehem and had been diligently seeking for exactly whom it pointed to. Epiphany is not so much the end of Christmas, but the culmination of so much waiting.
On Christmas, Christ arrived and was announced by the angels, and adored by his parents and simple shepherds. Ephiphany is when Christ's identity is made known to all outside the stable. The Magi's adoration of Jesus represents how Christ had been sent to save us all, Gentile and Jew. Three men come from the farthest corners of the known world, and announced to a very surprised Herod that a King has been born. The news that so many had waited for had finally arrived, but it was the last thing Herod wanted to hear.
When I think of waiting, of disappointment, and of unwelcome news I cannot help but pull from my own experiences as a special needs mom. So much time has been spent waiting for answers, appointments, diagnosis, treatments, and so often what I get in return for all my efforts is not at all what I expected.
The wise men went in search of a king, and found a baby. This tiny king was not the Messiah Herod wanted on the Jews expected. Herod chose to act out against Him in anger. and ultimately the Jews either followed him or rejected him. The wise men in that moment simply chose to worship, adore, and pay tribute to him.
I wonder, were they confused or doubtful about this child born among animals in a manger? Did they question their astronomy charts or prophesies? Or did they simply accept?
So many of us special needs parents are on our own long journeys. We know what we want and hope to find, but many of us do not arrive where we expect. Like the wise men, we have a choice as to how to approach this unfamiliar setting around us. We can grow angry and jealous like Herod and wonder why. We can deny the truth before us like the Pharasees. Or we can accept what seems so unbelievable, and we can learn to do it over and over again in every instance of uncertainty, and in every circumstance where were are forced to sit and wait for an answer we're not sure we want to hear.
The wise men met Christ, and then turned around and headed home by a different way to avoid Herod. They completed one long journey to simply turn around and go back home, and not even on a route they were familiar with.
As special needs parents, our paths are different from many other parents we know and for awhile when for first start down them, unfamiliar and scary. Thankfully we are not running from a crazed ruler who might want to kill us, but the fear and uncertainty are real. Might we take peace in knowing that, according to tradition, the wise men who came to adore the Christ child all came to embrace Christianity 40 years later? If they could come through their uncertain journeys to Bethlehem and back, and embrace Jesus as the Messiah, perhaps we can see how our waiting, our expectations, and our difficult journeys can lead us closer to Christ as well. We may not get to offer him gold, but we can offer him our joys and sufferings. We cannot gave upon his face in person, but we can partake in his body and blood. We may not get great signs like a star, or an angel in a dream, but we can take comfort in his Church and her members and rely on their guidance and prayers to help us along the way.
We are experts at waiting, and at traveling down long uncertain trails. We know all too well the sting of unrealized expectations. But things don't have to make sense or go according to plan for us to worship and adore God. We can learn to accept them with the wisdom of the Magi.
Kelly Mantoan is the founder of Accepting the Gift. She blogs on Fridays at This Ain't the Lyceum.