“Behold, wise men came from the east… to worship.”
Matthew 2:1, 2.
“Go, ye, therefore, and make disciples in all nations …”
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You are on a back road going to Grandmama’s house.
You have been stuck behind a local vehicle. They are having a good time talking — you can see it. Their speed is erratic — 45, 59, 48, 61, 54. Oncoming cars are just enough to make passing unsafe. You are hindered.
Up ahead, you see a sign. Your tax dollars have created a zone of about a mile or two where there is a passing lane on your side. You take advantage of it. The additional lane not only widens the road, it widens your options.
What was going to be a certain story — “We’re stuck behind some old Ford truck and we can’t seem to get a clear spot to pass him” — suddenly becomes a different narrative.
For Christians, today is Epiphany. The day that marks the coming of the Magi, the camel and the trio of expensive (and richly symbolic) gifts. It is the official day to take down the Christmas tree for some. In the Hispanic community, Three Kings’ Day marks more gift giving. It is a day that, on the surface, focuses on the holiness of God as found in the Christ child and our need to take a knee.
Yet, in a larger context, Epiphany is like the road that is suddenly widened. In Matthew 1:2-17 — the “begots” of what had been a Jewish genealogical story laced with salvation becomes multi-cultural. Universal. God’s testimony widens with these “foreigners” who seem to come from nowhere. The birth, which seems to have even been a secret to the religious leaders of the day (2:4), becomes an international story. Once the Wise men are in the free and clear, we assume the story of the child of the star went whatever the equivalent to “viral” was in those days.
John gives us the curious Greeks and the Samaritan woman (12:20ff, 4:1ff, respectively). Luke gives us some significant Gentiles (7:4ff). But it is Matthew who gives the literary artistry. Just as he opens things up with the coming of these kings from somewhere in the world in chapter 2, in the final chapter, the disciples are given marching (and evangelizing) orders to get in the widened lanes and share the good news (28:19). All nations. Jesus is specific. In fact, the piece my tribe often calls “The Great Commission” might be more like the instruction to take to the multi-lane interstates.
“Grandma, we are making up for some lost time. We got another one of those nice passing zones.”
Epiphany is about honoring the child born king. It is about endowing the imperiled future of a child that had some political realities stacked against him. But more than anything else, it is a Biblical reminder that God’s world is larger than the world we often let become reduced to our back roads.
Chances are, most of you don’t have staples of gold, frankincense or myrrh stashed away to set out on the table today. But a fitting way to mark Epiphany would be to look for the widening lanes of mercy, grace, peace and justice, the work of God in the world. You don’t need to be an astrologer to see it, but train your eye for the bright spots around you.
The Reverend Doctor C. Jarred Hammet is a Presbyterian minister serving in central Georgia. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.