Have Yourself a Merry Little Epiphany
For those in the Western Christian Liturgical Calendar….Happy Epiphany.
The Feast remembers The Wise Guys Men who came to visit the child Jesus. They represent the coming of The Gentiles into the Jewish tradition. In later tradition, this came to be depicted as three men (although the text doesn’t specify a number), one (East) Asian, one African, and one vaguely Indo-European/Middle Eastern-ish. [My personal vote is that #3 should be a Latino.]
The story only occurs in The Gospel of Matthew. Matthew’s community seems to have been what scholars term a predominantly Jewish-Christian (really Christian Jewish) community with some Gentiles. Matthew’s Gospel highlights certain key Gentiles (The Magi, The Syro-Phoenician woman, The Roman Centurion) as figures of emulation for The Gentiles. As basically all Christians alive today (and for more than a thousand years now) are of Gentile extraction, these individuals are very important to a contemporary audience.
Epiphany comes from the root meaning “manifestation”–in this case of God (or a god more generally in Greek). The three gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh represent the child Jesus as King, High Priest, and Sacrifice, respectively. The Gospels are written from the perspective of the Crucifixion and Resurrection projected back into the beginning of the story. The myrrh, a funerary agent, already symbolizes the coming death of the child, which speaks to the great criticism of The Magi by Brian Cohen’s mother (“don’t worry about the myrrh too much next time”).
Two versions of the classic We Three Kings after the fold (one a mash-up, the other a heavy metal version, which apparently is today’s theme here at the League):