IVP - Strangely Dim - For the Feast of Epiphany

January 6, 2012

For the Feast of Epiphany

Thumbnail image for 9780830836420.jpgI always liked the Magi. Really, who wouldn't? "We three kings of Orient are / chewing on a rubber cigar ..." Sing it if you know it ... 

That silly satire is my earliest impression of the Magi. But it hardly merits the feast day offered every year on the Feast of Epiphany, celebrated on January 6. On this day we're encouraged to look at the freshly incarnated Jesus through the eyes of "wise men." 

In his book The Gospel of Matthew: God with Us, the second volume in our Resonate series, Matt Woodley gives us a true sense of the meaning of epiphany, the discovery of the Christ that vindicates every journey, no matter how difficult or seemingly hopeless. An excerpt from Matt's book follows.


The Magi represent a universal human drive to embark on a quest. Their stargazing wasn't recreational or philosophical; it signified the red hot coal stuck in their throat, their longing for joy, their participation in the search. After intently watching the stars and planets, after reading the signs and searching the clues, they embarked on a quest. "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea," Matthew tells us, "during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?'" (Mt 2:1-2). We don't know much about them, but we can assume this was a costly search driven by deep desire. In one sense the Magi represent all of us--seeking, questioning, longing human beings who awaken to life as a quest.

But they also represent something about God, for the Magi are not only seekers; they are questers who have been outquested by God. According to Matthew, God initiated their long and costly journey through part of his good creation--a star (Mt 2:2, 9). They may have spotted the star, but God used the star to guide them out of their everydayness toward joy. God also guided them through his spoken word, refining their initial quest through an ancient Old Testament prophecy recorded in Matthew 2:6:

But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
   are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
   who will shepherd my people Israel.

At each stage of their quest God sought the seekers, recapitulating the journey described by Augustine's prayer: "I should not have sought you unless you had first found me." . . . We start out the quest intending to discover something, but we end up being discovered. We think we are looking for something only to find that someone was looking for us. We assume we're ascending to God and realize that God is descending to us. This is divine mercy. . .

It's hard to miss the application for us: the questing God of Jesus, the God of grace, still seeks seekers, welcoming home sinners and outsiders. He still guides us step by step through nature, circumstances, relationships, failures, triumphs and especially the Holy Bible until we are led to worship King Jesus. The church, living at the foot of Jesus' crib and cross, should do no less.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at January 6, 2012 10:45 AM Bookmark and Share

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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