Epiphany Sunday is the day that Christian services typically include the hymn “We Three Kings” to commemorate the arrival of the magi with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the child Jesus. Actually the Gospel of Matthew chapter 2 does not give us specific information about the status or number of the visitors (maybe royalty, maybe not; maybe three, maybe a larger contingent.) However, Scripture does tell us that these distinguished scholars, possibly astronomers, were foreigners from the East who could afford to give gifts that were a sign of honor ordinarily reserved to royalty or a deity. They came searching for the King of the Jews. But what did these offerings mean to a simple teen-age mother who probably knew nothing of the lands from which these strangers had come, nor the science of the stars, nor even the symbolic meaning of the extravagant gifts? Imagine how she might have received the guests from a distant land with their strange speech and rich wardrobes and decidedly different culture. She would understand the importance of the gold, but what about the symbolism of perfumed frankincense and the oil of myrrh?
In Mary’s life there were to be countless questions: How was she to become a mother since she did not know man? How should she explain her pregnancy to Joseph? Now who are these foreigners and how did they know about her little boy? What do these rare gifts mean? How can she and Joseph protect her son from the ruthless King Herod? Questions. So many questions. Questions seeking answers, solutions, reassurance, guidance, relief from fear.
But already she had come to trust God totally for answers. Her healthy pregnancy, Joseph’s understanding and deep love for her, the simple but safe dwelling he had found for them the night she had delivered, the acclamation of angels and shepherds and now of these foreigners testifying to her son’s kingship. The whole world will one day know of God’s mercy through her son.
Like Mary, each and every one of us has had to face questions seeking answers, solutions, reassurance, guidance, relief from fear. All members of the human family, all people of every class and culture and color and generation have similar questions, and all will ultimately find the answers they need from the same source, the God who loves us. So this week let us have courage to follow whatever star is leading us to whatever truth God is offering for our awareness. And let us not fear the strangers we might meet on the road. They may well be fellow searchers. Our differences might be simply differing facets of a single sublime truth.