The journey to revelation: a writer’s reflection on Epiphany

Today, 6 January, marks Epiphany. I’ll put on my preacher’s hat and bring you some biblical basics. The word Epiphany is from the Greek word epipháneia, meaning ‘manifestation’ or ‘appearance’ (Wikipedia). The Feast of the Epiphany marks the revealing of Christ to the Gentile world, as represented by the Magi, or wise men (Matthew 2:1–12). Please note: - We don’t know if there were three of them. Three gifts were given but Matthew never says how many Magi there were. - Matthew never says they were kings either. This is another invention by cultural Christianity! - Matthew doesn’t tell us where the wise men came from, just ‘from the east’. They might have been astronomers or astrologers from Persia (Iran). Their question, “Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star when it arose and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2) shows they were familiar with Jewish prophecy. Jews were scattered over the ancient world due to the diaspora so the wise men may well have been familiar with the Hebrew scriptures and learned from Jews about Messianic prophecies. - The timeline. Jesus wasn’t an infant by the time the Magi turned up. He was more likely two years old or under. Matthew gives us the clue to Jesus’ age in the terrible act described in Matthew 2 verse 16. - The appearance of the ‘royal’ star, the star that heralded the birth of a king. Some scientists have speculated that the Star of Bethlehem might have been a planetary conjunction. - The three gifts presented by the wise men to the child Jesus – gold to symbolise his royalty, frankincense (used in temple worship) to symbolise his holiness, and myrrh (a perfume used to embalm the dead) to symbolise his sacrifice – show their remarkable foresight and discernment. Gifts fit for a king indeed, and with a prophetic edge: what prompted them to give the myrrh? The Magi are men who listen to dreams – having embarked on a long journey from their own land to find and worship a mysterious young king, the very one who will save the world, they heed the angel’s warning in a dream not to return to Herod and return home by another route. Epiphany is about revelation and transformation, which carries its own challenges. What dreams will we listen to this year? What journeys will we embark on as writers? We too can be wise men and wise women: we may not feel that wise all the time, but as writers we can bring our gifts to Christ for him to use. Your writer’s journey in 2022 may not be an easy one – but it will be an adventure, and it will bring its own epiphanies.
I am the administrator for the education and learning office of the United Reformed Church and a lay minister in the Church of England. I wrote a devotional for the anthology ‘Light for the Writer’s Soul’, published by Media Associates International, and my short story ‘Magnificat’ appears in the ACW Christmas Anthology ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’.

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