Friday, January 6, 2012


The Twelve Days of Christmas is probably the most misunderstood part of the church year. Contrary to much popular belief, these are the twelve days from Christmas (Dec. 25) until the beginning of Epiphany, (January 6th).

In the Western church, Epiphany is usually celebrated as the time the Magi arrived to present gifts to the young Jesus. The term epiphany means "to show" or "to make known" or even "to reveal." The Magi were the first Gentiles to acknowledge Jesus as "King" and so were the first to "show" or "reveal" Jesus to a wider world as the incarnate Christ. This act of worship by the Magi, which corresponded to Simeon’s blessing that this child Jesus would be "a light for revelation to the Gentiles" (Luke 2:32), was one of the first indications that Jesus came for all people, of all nations, of all races, and that the work of God in the world would not be limited to only a few.

The Christian Church has long celebrated the 6th of January as the feast of the Wise Men but we have never quite figured out who they were. Tradition tells us there were three (because there were three gifts) and that their names were Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar. Their gifts were gold, which is valuable and represents kingship on earth,  frankincense, a perfume and a symbol of deity, and myrrh, an anointing oil and a symbol of death. 

The Magi have also been linked to Old Testament prophesies that the Messiah would be worshipped by kings. 
Psalms 72:10
10 May the kings of Tarshish and of distant shores bring tribute to him. May the kings of Sheba and Seba present him gifts. 

Isaiah 60:3
3 Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Although most of the information we have about the Magi comes from tradition rather than written history, it's emphasis shows Jesus being recognized as king of the earth, even from infancy.

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