The Shepherds in Jesus's birth story likely saw Christmas differently than we might think. We covered that a few weeks ago. Today, however, we look at something a bit different. January 6 marks Epiphany, and while very traditional believers will commemorate the holiday, it is a church holiday that few celebrate. It might be good for your student, a celebration that might pull your family in to see Christmas in a more whole and encompassing light.
For the Levitical shepherds, Jesus's birth may have drawn a line to atonement. There are a lot of prophecies for those trained in the Scriptures to see Jesus as the savior for the Jews. Epiphany is a widening of Christmas. A manifestation of Christmas for the biblically illiterate.
Epiphany celebrates the magi's meeting of Jesus. Epiphany means manifestation, in Greek the word is synonymous with displaying and presenting. When the Magi venture from Persia to Jerusalem following the star they are looking for a special presentation from the earth to something special. They were seeking a king of Kings who was having his presence announced by natural wonders.
Magi are found throughout scripture. They're people who study the world and phenomenons, working to give man perspective in moving to the future aided by study of the earth. In the book of Esther the wisemen were regarded as princes, people whom the king brought into his court to help rule.
The magi's intense study of the world led them to Jerusalem. The religious culture and royal court would make it a natural place for a god-king to emerge from within the city, but their journey continued after meeting Herod. Their hunt for the truth of the earthly phenomenon led them onward.
In following their study of truth to a cave in Bethlehem the magi gave the child-king-Christ a hoard of gifts. The practice resembles actions from the queen of Sheba in 1 Kings 10 where she traveled over barren lands to visit Solomon and said, "In wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard."
The wise men were in search of wisdom, working to make sense of the phenomenons of the world. Students today do much the same in school. Studying the natural processes in earth, students grow equipped with knowledge to recognize special movements in history and the ordered processes of the universe. These studies build their significance in the world, helping students see where and how they fit into the historical paradigms and natural orders and processes of the universe.
When the magi encounter Jesus in the manger they have little context for the bandages Jesus is wrapped in, that were used on new born sheep to keep them without blemish for the atoning sacrifices in the temple. However, they recognized that the wisdom and knowledge they had in studying the world led them to a place that was unifying the phenomenons they studied. This Baby was being celebrated by the universe the magi studied. All explanations of the universe let them to what they found in the manger.
For young people, they may not have the Bible background to draw lines to Jesus from the Old Testament. However, they likely have knowledge of the universe and an affinity to research the incredible God-ordained shouting of the stars at that time to announce Jesus' birth. They may come, as the magi, having explored other points of knowledge. They may have a sense of unity found in social movements, celebrating freedom fighters as the unifying force in humanity. But, when they follow the inspiration to end the slave trade, or the backroom plots to terminate Hitler's human experiments, they will find those heros of old with a reverence for the Baby born in the manger.
The wisest knowledge of mankind points back to an incredible reference point in Jesus Christ. As your students explore wisdom and knowledge to gain understanding of the world, lead them to celebrate Epiphany. A manifestation of the power of God wrapped in a universe that announced His birth to welcome Him as the King of kings, the savior of more than simply the Jewish and Biblically literate. He is the savior of the world.