On the Twelfth Day of Christmas…
In honor of Epiphany today, I wanted to re-share a post from last year:
In the United States, January 6th is a day that often goes by without much attention. But many places in the world celebrate this day as Three Kings Day or Epiphany. Epiphany is the day when we remember the wise men’s visit to the one they knew to be Messiah. As a matter of fact, when people speak of the twelve days of Christmas, this time does not actually refer to the days leading up to December 25th but rather those days beginning with the celebration of the birth of Jesus up to Epiphany.
There are many reasons to reflect on this day, but you may be surprised to know (or maybe not if you knew me!) that I like to remember this day because of its scientific significance. You see, though we don’t know much about the wise men, we do know that they were men who lived far east of Bethlehem. Additionally, they were not Jews yet they knew about the Messiah who was promised to the Jews. Of course, they had access to the Old Testament Scriptures, likely from the days of the Babylonian captivity of the Jews. And having read those writings, they knew of the prophecies surrounding the Messiah’s birth.
These men were scientists. They knew much about the physical world around them. They studied it and understood that it was ordered and organized. So when they noticed a change in the heavens (which is argued to be either a convergence of planets and stars or a star going nova), they knew right away that it was a unique occurrence and remembered what they had read in the Scriptures.
Often Christmas cards and nativities depict the wise men visiting Jesus on the night of his birth. Yet because they lived so far away, it was more likely that they arrived many months or even a few years afterward. That momentous night when the Savior of the world was born was more likely witnessed by his Jewish parents, some local Jewish folks, and a small band of Jewish shepherds. This was the first record of Jews beholding and recognizing their Messiah. And when the wise scientists came to acknowledge his birth, it was most likely the first record of the Gentiles beholding and recognizing their Messiah as well.
Thanks to the scientific study of some men from long ago, we can see that it is profitable to study our world around us. God has made it clear that his creation is one way for us to learn about him. As we study the amazing intricacies of bacteria to the perfect balance of planetary positions in our solar system, we can utilize these discoveries to better our world. You may already know that the ever-present Velcro© we find on clothing, combat suits, and even on the space shuttle was created by a scientist who studied unique seeds that had stuck to his clothes after a hunting trip. He came up with a design based on what the ultimate Designer had created.
So don’t let January 6th go by without remembering that it marks a significant event, one that involved scientists who saw the heavens declaring the glory of the Lord and who made a significant journey in order to give praise to the One who came.
This is the real ending of the Christmas season when we see that Jesus is truly “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel” (Luke 2:32).