Today is Epiphany, the day the Wise Men found the baby Jesus. Their story is told in the first 12 verses of Matthew Chapter 2. The author of Matthew doesn’t really describe those who were in the entourage, which first traveled to Jerusalem seeking the King of the Jews. When King Herod and his court heard the proclamation of the Wise Men, they were troubled. King Herod consulted the chief priests and scribes to learn of Jesus’ birthplace. And yet, when he learned that Jesus was in Bethlehem of Judea, he did not accompany the Wise Men to behold the Christ.
The Wise Men followed the Star, a beacon to guide them to where Jesus was. They offered Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to honor this baby king and His kingdom. And being warned not to return to Herod, they went home by a different way.
This day commemorates their journey and their discovery. Growing up, my family didn’t really celebrate this day. We knew it was the 12th day of Christmas. But we had already exchanged presents, eaten a festive meal and spent time with family and friends. By Epiphany, we were back at school and our parents went back to work. We began to remove the decorations from the tree, take the cards and stickers from the windows and pack the wreaths and stockings up until next year.
It wasn’t until I went to Puerto Rico that I celebrated this special holiday. I was invited there for a friend’s wedding. We arrived on January 2nd and it was as if Christmas hadn’t arrived yet. The spirit of Christmas was palpable wherever we went. My friend’s rehearsal dinner was on El Dia de Los Reyes at her aunt’s house. I arrived with friends to see votive lights guiding people from the street to the door. Not just at her aunt’s house, but along the entire street. Her aunt explained that the lights were placed to guide the Wise Men on their journey.
And somehow, Los Reyes arrived before any of the guests. There were presents for all of us, waiting near the creche which signified this holy day. It was like Christmas morning all over again. For a little while, we forgot about the upcoming wedding. We were as excited as little children to see what the Wise Men left us. And the spirit of that evening lasted for the rest of the weekend, as my friends exchanged vows, and began their life journey together.
Each year, as I decorate the house for Christmas, the first thing I set up is one of the creches I own. It is also the last thing I put away. I leave it up for the 12 days of Christmas. I celebrate the journey of the Wise Men as much as I do the story of Joseph and Mary and the birth of our Savior.
But like so many of us, I sort of pack away the Christmas spirit when I put up the last of my decorations. I compartmentalize the joy and hope I express between Thanksgiving and the start of the new year. I forget that Epiphany is not a single moment in our lives. It is an integral part of our Christian heritage. Once we know the Lord is with us, it is impossible to deny His continuing presence in our lives. His light continues to shine within us and through us, not just on December 25th or January 6th. God is with us every day, in every way, in all that we are, in all that we say and in all that we do. May the wonder and awe of this Christmas season remain with us every day as we celebrate the greatest gift of God’s love for us. And Amen.