Ignatius of Antioch, from the 2nd Century, penned this:
A star burned in the sky more brightly than all the others; its light was indescribable, its newness marvelous, and all the other stars, along with the sun and the moon, formed a chorus around this star, the light of which reached father than that of any other…Then all the magic was destroyed, and every bond wrought by wickedness was broken, and the ancient kingdom was razed. When God appeared in human form to bring the newness of eternal life, his counsel began to be fulfilled.
It’s a lovely picture painted with lovely words and has some lovely bits to chew on, too.
Some think that the Magi, in offering their gifts, laid down the implements of their trades at Jesus’ feet. For one, a trader in goods, it was gold. For one, a magician and fortune teller, it was mystical incense meant to induce trances. For the last it was the myrrh, that ancient oil used in burial rites. They gave up their ways in seeing the wisdom of God found in Christ.
I don’t know if I trust that story, but I do know that there are many things that the world calls “wise” that I have given up in searching after God’s wisdom. Ways that no longer rely on gold, on trickery, or that react against fear and especially the fear of death.
In this way wickedness is broken bit by bit. In this way magic, and I don’t mean literal magic, but that magical thinking that we all tend to fall into (if I do this, then this will happen) is broken because, as Luther says, “Only trust God and all is already done.” And in this way the ancient kingdom of death, a kingdom that has plagued (and continues to plague) the world in fear, causing war upon war, selfish greed, and anxiety, is razed to the ground.
There is wisdom here. The Magi story is the precursor to Jesus’ own advice that those who seek will find, those who knock will be welcomed.
So, this Epiphany, this final day of these readings, in these final moments of our time together, in what ways has this season, this seeking, these times we’ve spent together helped you to give up fear and anxiety? How has it taught you to set aside time from being productive (from gold) to seek another kind of wisdom? How have you given up the magical thinking that tells you that if you take time out like this you’ll never get it back, and every moment is precious for production?
Blessed Epiphany, the time of awe, the time of “ah-hah!” The time where wisdom sets in.
Question for reflection: In what ways can I make this practice of taking time out to seek wisdom a regular part of my life?