An Epiphany Reflection by Canon Dean Fostekew

‘Wise men from the East’

Do you realise that’s virtually all we actually know about the visitors who came baring gifts for the Christ Child, that they were wise men from the East; and no one is quite sure what that means. We can assume that they were wealthy from the gifts they brought and that they had some experience (or staff who did) in understanding the stars in the sky. Much of what we think we know about these men is legend and embroidery that has attached itself to them over the past two millennia. If you read the passage again you’ll also discover that we are not told the number of wise men who came from the East. It is just assumed that there were three because of the three gifts offered. Also Matthew is the only Gospel writer to include anything about them. So what’s going on?

In Eastern Christianity, especially the Syriac churches, the Magi often number twelve.Their identification as ‘kings' in later Christian writings is probably linked to Isaiah 60:1-6

which refers to "kings (coming) to the brightness of your dawn" bearing "gold and frankincense". Further identification of the magi with kings may also be due to Psalm 72:11 which says; "May all kings fall down before him”.

So we have an idea why we think there may have been three wise men and that they might have been kings as well. The magi title relates to their study of the stars and the mysticism surrounding astrology and astronomy. You can see how the legends grow. We also have names for them; Balthazar, Casper and Melchior quite how they came about is obscured in the mists of history but interestingly the three are seen to represent different races of humanity. Balthazar as a King of Arabia; Melchior a King of Persia and Casper a King of India - representing men from different places in the known world of two thousand years ago.

In art they also represent three different ages of humanity of youth, middle age and maturity - hence being portrayed as fresh faced, white bearded and middle aged. Their skin tones also

reflect their cultural origins. The picture of them grows and much of what we think we know about them probably comes from paintings or more often Christmas cards!

This might set one thinking that this all sounds very fanciful and wondering if they did in fact visit the Christ Child and when they were supposed to have done so. Again it is assumed that the child was a young boy and not a baby when they called.

Personally, I love the feast of the Epiphany or ‘The revelation of Christ to the world’, and all the legends and mystery that goes with it. I love it for one reason that the visit of the men from the East quite obviously and dramatically tell us that Jesus was born not for the Hebrew people alone but for all people of the world regardless of where they come from, how old they are, what skin colour they have or whatever difference they represent.

Jesus is for EVERYONE!!!!!!!!!!!

This is the message of today’s feast and it is a message we should proclaim from the roof tops. Jesus was not born for just a few random people he was born for the whole of the human race throughout all time. His birth heralded the salvation he would win us by his death on a Cross and resurrection to new life. His birth gives the whole world HOPE that by his love, the love of God incarnate (made real and fleshy) tells us all that we are wanted by God in his Kingdom.

All the legends and the symbolism of the Kings, Magi, wise men and the gifts are a great story that adds to the drama and ultimate truth that Jesus was born to save us all and to show us all how much we are loved by our Creator.

Thank you Casper, Melchior and Balthazar for showing us what we needed to know and understand about our Saviour.