In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” – Matthew 2:1-3
We had a nativity set it my house growing up. It sat on the bookshelves in the living room, and each year setting it up was my favorite part of the Christmas decorating. Joseph and Mary, the shepherds, sheep and cows, and Jesus himself (who I didn’t know not to put in the manger) all took their places. And then there were the three wise men, arriving a little late with their dubious gift choices for a newborn. They stood sort of off to the side, coming late to the party.
Today is the Feast of the Epiphany in the church. The twelve days of Christmas came to an end yesterday, and with it the last of the remaining nativity sets were probably packed up (if they made it this long). That’s too bad, because traditionally we observe this as the day that the magi finally made it to Bethlehem. It’s their big moment, and they’re already safely back in their boxes until next year.
It’s always a bit sad to see how quickly people put away their Christmas decorations. I’ve known churches that have packed up theirs on December 26th, oblivious to the fact that Christmas is a whole season. Epiphany never even has a chance.
But the wise men teach us that sometimes we need to sit in awe of Christ’s birth, and his continual entry into the world, for a little longer. After all, not all of us make it to the manger on time, and some of us take a little longer to have an epiphany. When we make it there, it’s nice to not be alone.
God, help us to linger in the wonder of your incarnation just a little longer, and help us to be community for those yet to arrive. Amen.
Emily C. Heath is Senior Pastor of The Congregational Church in Exeter, New Hampshire.