■ By Ronald Ritter / Contributed
The glare of city lights hides stars in the night sky from our vision. In the mountains, however, away from city lights, we are able to see stars as they were commonly viewed in the ancient world. No wonder ancient travelers looked to the stars for guidance and direction. Understanding movement of stars allowed the informed viewer to know where he was and where he was going.
The Gospel of Matthew tells us that the Magi, or Wise Men as they are more commonly known, were following a particular star in order to find the one whom they believed would be the King of the Jews. The purpose of their search was to honor this King and bring him gifts.
Throughout a major portion of its history, the Christian church has identified this event in the life of Jesus Christ with a major worship service known as Epiphany. The date of Epiphany has always fallen on Jan. 6. As it turns out, there are 12 days from the Incarnation, or birth of Jesus Christ, celebrated on Dec. 25 to the visit of the Magi on the sixth of January.
Epiphany, on Jan. 6, is the day when the Magi, who had been following a particular star, encountered Jesus Christ for the first time.”
The word epiphany is translated as manifestation or appearance. In normal conversation, a person might say they’ve had an epiphany. They mean that they’ve had a moment of understanding or clarity. That is, something was manifested to them that before they did not know, grasp or understand. Then, how does this understanding apply to Jan. 6, when the church celebrates the visit of the Magi to Jesus Christ?
For Christians, first of all, Epiphany on Jan. 6 is the day when the Magi, who had been following a particular star, encountered Jesus Christ for the first time. What makes this biblically-determined event so critical to the Christian faith is that it is the very first time when Jesus was manifested to a non-Jewish population, the Magi. An understanding and celebration of Epiphany is vital to the mission of the Christian church because it locates at a specific point in time the fulfillment of the Scripture that says “For God so loved the world….” In this case, the non-Jewish Magi, in this instance, “the world,” while looking for a King discovered instead a God, Jesus Christ.
The second major feature of the celebration of the date of Epiphany revolves around the light generated by the star the Magi followed to get to Jesus. The very idea of light itself is a major feature of the Christian for Jesus identifies Himself as “…the Light of the World.” God’s light was made visible to the Magi through the star they followed. Likewise, the light of God is made visible to the whole world through His only begotten son, Jesus Christ.
The message and purpose of Epiphany is clear. It is the celebration of God’s light coming into the world through Jesus Christ.
Prince of Peace Lutheran Church at 701 N. Sanderson Avenue invites you to join them in the celebration of the Service of Epiphany on Friday, Jan.6 at noon. A small luncheon will be offered following the service. For more information call (951) 926-6121 Tuesday – Friday.
Please plan to complete your Christmas season by joining those who will celebrate the ultimate Christmas gift of God’s love by sending His only begotten Son into the world for its forgiveness and salvation. Christmas is not over yet!