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Keep Christmas Going – Journey with the Wise Men

Christmas day has passed. Now what? Do we return to normal? Where do we go from here? How do we build on what we’ve experienced?

We have a few more days before our next major feast commemorating the manifestation of Jesus as Lord and Messiah at the Epiphany. The wise men steal the show, but the feast also includes the Baptism of Jesus and the Wedding at Cana, Jesus’ first sign.

During the feast of Christmas, we have come with the shepherds to adore the newborn king. The shepherds receive the message from the angel: “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). The angel evangelizes (bring the good news) to the shepherds and proclaims the kingship of Jesus as Christ (Messiah, the anointed king) and Lord (the true God).

During the twelve days of Christmas we celebrate a New Year. Christmas is a new beginning and helps us to situate our plans and hopes in light of Christ’s kingship. He is the Lord; do not be afraid. We are given this time to experience the joy He brings.

The days leading us to Epiphany give us time to soak in this reality. Epiphany culminates the Christmas celebration as we embrace not just Jesus’ birth, but the lordship of the newborn king. We ask that He will bring peace to all the nations, which the wise men represent.

We can put ourselves in the shoes of the wise men during Epiphany, just as we did with the shepherds. We have seen the star of faith and have followed it to lay our lives down before the King. We have come to Him through the arduous journey of our life and we must return to this life in the coming year, despite the threats to our life and faith, represented by Herod.

T.S. Eliot captured these realties well, as he situated the wise men not simply in an historical setting, but as archetypes for us. I share the poem below as a way of preparing ourselves for Epiphany and uniting ourselves to the homage of the wise men.

T.S. Eliot, “The Journey of the Magi,” (1927)

‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For the journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins,
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death,
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.