Today the 12 days of Christmas give way to the start of Epiphany. The celebration on 6th January focuses on the strange outsiders from the east, the magi, people obsessed by study and interpretation of the movements of planets and stars. They followed the direction of a new star, expecting to find a new special king. What they found was a toddler with his parents, in an ordinary house in Bethlehem, on what was presumably for Mary, Joseph and their son Jesus, an ordinary day. And they were overwhelmed with joy. Something wonderful was revealed to those mysterious strangers that the locals didn't see. They experienced an 'epiphany', a moment of revelation. They glimpsed the glory of God in the face of the child Jesus. You can read the story in Matthew's gospel here and you might notice that unlike most nativity plays there are no camels, no kings, no stable and the number of magi isn't specified.
Nancy Rockwell has published a reflective poem about their visit on her blog here. I reproduce it in full below.
"Once, long ago, distant travelers saw a star as a wonder,
and the star revealed to them a Child in a cattle-stall,
who they also saw as a wonder.
the travelers themselves were seen as wonders, revealed by starlight
to the villagers of Bethlehem.
With God, one showing leads to another,
first here, then there, time after time.
The travelers brought fabled gifts,
rare, mysterious, and remembered.
The Child brought everyone ordinary gifts,
water, bread and wine,
and time after time, we see him in them.
One showing leads to another, and so we are here,
thankful for ordinary gifts
that offer glimpses of God in our own time.
Between eternity and mortality,
between hope and despair,
between wisdom and fear,
we are not lost,
for time after time,
God's love is shown."
Image Credit: Painting by James Tissot, Wikimedia Commons