Read­ing Time: 10 minutes

(Ref. Texts: Isa 60:1–6; Eph 3:2–3.5–6; Matt 2:1–12)

The glory of the Lord has set you ablaze with light.”

When we think of God, we are apt to think of Him in human form. In the Epi­phanies of the Old [Hebrew] Test­a­ment God revealed Him­self to Joshua and oth­ers in human form. He puts Him­self with­in the com­pass of our highest con­cep­tion, in order that He may make Him­self real to us in His love and sym­pathy and power” (A. C. Dixon).


Dear friends, wel­come to 2019! Like pre­vi­ous years, 2019 will also be a year of bless­ing for all of us. We thank God for mak­ing us cit­izens of this year. Embrace it with hap­pi­ness. Live it with renewed vigour and enthu­si­asm. King Herod or Herod the Great was appoin­ted king of the Jews under the Roman author­ity. He ruled firmly and at times ruth­lessly. Motiv­ated by his great cruelty and para­noia, he murdered his own wife, sev­er­al sons, moth­er in-law and oth­er rel­at­ives. He was a mas­ter build­er who restored the temple in Jer­u­s­alem and built many theatres, cit­ies, palaces, and fort­resses. While he des­troyed human lives, he built struc­tures. That is the polit­ics of the selfish and god­less. In many instances, the Nigeri­an politi­cians are like King Herod in the sense that they are ruth­less, god­less and fun­da­ment­ally cor­rupt. Unfor­tu­nately, many who claim to be Church lead­ers are in the same cat­egory. While Herod des­troyed human lives and built struc­tures, the Nigeri­an politi­cians des­troy the lives of the cit­izens and even des­troy their prop­erty without build­ing any struc­tures. Instead, they build their own per­son­al struc­tures and man­sions. Sim­il­arly, many who claim to be Church lead­ers are ser­i­ously des­troy­ing the psy­cho­logy of the mis­in­formed and ignor­ant faith­ful whom they con­tinu­ously extort fin­an­cially, spir­itu­ally, mor­ally, socially and intellectually.

While the story of the census is found only in the Gos­pel accord­ing to Luke, the story of the vis­it of the Magi is found only in Mat­thew. Mis­con­cep­tions and legends abound about these wise men. They were not kings, but wise men. In oth­er words, they pre­dicted the future by the pos­i­tions of the plan­ets, sun and moon. Prob­ably, they were not only three, but a great com­pany. Church tra­di­tions even provide names as Mel­chi­or, Cas­par, and Balthas­ar. Their sup­posed skulls could be found in a cathed­ral in Cologne, Ger­many. Accord­ing to Jew­ish legends, Daniel as an offi­cial of the Per­sian gov­ern­ment, foun­ded the order of Magi (wise men), and instruc­ted them to watch for the Mes­si­ah through the gen­er­a­tions. The implic­a­tion is that the entire world was in search of the Mes­si­ah, not just the Israel­ites. With Andrew, can we con­clude that we have found the Mes­si­ah (cf. John 1:41)?

What is epiphany?

Ordin­ar­ily, epi­phany refers to that very moment when a per­son sud­denly feels that he or she under­stands, or sud­denly becomes con­scious of some­thing that is very import­ant. On the oth­er hand, it is a potent reli­gious exper­i­ence. The Mer­ri­am-Web­ster Dic­tion­ary renders it as sud­den mani­fest­a­tion or per­cep­tion of the essen­tial nature or mean­ing of some­thing; an illu­min­at­ing dis­cov­ery, real­iz­a­tion, or dis­clos­ure; a reveal­ing scene or moment. It is the appear­ance or mani­fest­a­tion espe­cially of a divine being. Accord­ing to its Greek ori­gin, epi­phany derives from epi (in this con­text on, upon) and phainō (show one­self, appear). While the verb is epi­phainō, the noun is epi­phaneia (appear­ance, appear­ing, mani­fest­a­tion, coming).

Meta­phor­ic­ally, that is, in ref­er­ence to divine inter­ven­tion, epi­phainō means to give light, shine on or shine upon (cf. Luke 1:79). In our con­text, we can take epi­phainō both in its ordin­ary and meta­phor­ic­al senses. In oth­er words, God shows him­self, mani­fests and appears to man­kind, gives light to man­kind and shines upon the face of the earth to bright­en and enlight­en the way of the people. In this reli­gious con­nota­tion, epi­phaneia refers to Janu­ary 6 observed as a church fest­iv­al in com­mem­or­a­tion of the com­ing of the magoi as the first mani­fest­a­tion of Jesus to the Gen­tiles (cf. Matt 2:1–12) or in the East­ern Church, in com­mem­or­a­tion of the bap­tism of Jesus. For Chris­ti­ans, epi­phaneia has two­fold mean­ing. First, it refers to the tan­gible appear­ance of Jesus on earth at the end of his­tory. Accord­ing to Paul’s descrip­tion in 2Thessalonians 2:1–12, the advent of the law­less man will pre­cede the vis­ible appear­ance of the Lord Jesus. In this pas­sage, Paul asso­ci­ates epi­phaneia and par­ousia. The man of law­less­ness is already at work (cf. 2Thess 2:7), but the Lord Jesus will des­troy him by the splend­our (epi­phaneia) of his com­ing (par­ousia).[1] Secondly, Chris­ti­ans also applied and con­tin­ues to apply epi­phaneia to the earthly appear­ance of the Saviour in his incarn­a­tion (cf. 2Tim 1:10). And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (cf. John 1:14)

Who is a Magus?

While magi is plur­al, the sin­gu­lar form is magus. A magus is a magi­cian or a sor­cer­er of the Ancient Times. In reli­gious con­text, a magus is a mem­ber of a hered­it­ary priestly class among the ancient Medes and Per­sians. Stated dif­fer­ently, magus refers to a mem­ber of the Zoroastri­an priest­hood of the ancient Per­sians. In this sense, a magus is a non-Chris­ti­an priest. That is, one who per­forms reli­gious cere­mon­ies and oth­er reli­gious duties in a non-Chris­ti­an reli­gion espe­cially, in the ancient Per­sian world. The duty of the Magi qual­i­fies them as wise. Little is known about these Magi. All we know is that they came from the East and were jour­ney­ing to Beth­le­hem. Since they fol­lowed the astro­lo­gic­al sign, it would not be wrong to con­clude they were astro­lo­gers from the East. Although Mat­thew did not say how many they were, but from the num­ber of gifts presen­ted to Jesus, some con­clude they were at least three. This con­clu­sion is not definite.

In the Per­sian and the Baby­lo­ni­an king­doms, it was the cus­tom for the wise men (Greek: magoi, plur­al of magos) to refer to priests and experts in mat­ters of mys­ter­ies. This explains the reas­on these magoi went to Herod on their arrival to Jer­u­s­alem. How­ever, by this time, the term magos applied to a range of people whose prac­tices included astro­logy, dream inter­pret­a­tion, study of sac­red writ­ings, the pur­suit of wis­dom, and magic. Their vis­it espe­cially, the reas­on, was not good news to King Herod. The star of the newly born king which the magoi saw recalls Balaam’s proph­ecy in Num­bers 24:17 that “a star shall come out of Jac­ob, and a sceptre shall rise out of Israel.” For the Jews, such star poin­ted to the mes­si­ah. The move­ment of the star indic­ates it was not a nat­ur­al phe­nomen­on. It was a super­nat­ur­al arrange­ment meant to con­tin­ue the divine superi­or­ity and con­trol in and of the birth of the mes­si­ah. It is still the over­power­ing power of the El Shad­dai. The arrival of this true King of the Jews presents a threat to Herod the Great’s throne and to Israel’s cor­rupt reli­gious and polit­ic­al lead­er­ship in Jerusalem.

In many Chris­ti­an coun­tries includ­ing Niger­ia, the memori­al of the birth of the mes­si­ah means an increase in cor­rup­tion and evil both in the civil and reli­gious circles. Instead of seek­ing for spir­itu­al gain and growth, Chris­ti­ans seek for mater­i­al gain. This explains the reas­on for the hike in prices of goods and trans­port­a­tion dur­ing the Christ­mas cel­eb­ra­tion. Oth­er examples of the Chris­ti­an Christ­mas abnor­mal­it­ies abound.

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