Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Remember When . . . The Magi Arrived?

Happy Epiphany, everyone! (Okay, I don't know if that's the traditional greeting, but it'll work. ;-) The twelve days of Christmas are officially over, and today's the day when traditionally the decorations come down. Literally "manifestation," the Epiphany is about commemorating the importance of God being made man through Christ. It's also the celebration for when the Wise Men arrived on the scene.

Much of our Christmas tradition actually comes from the Magi. We give gifts because they gave gifts. And ah, how well we know them. Right? Gold--a traditional gift to give to royalty, arguably the most valuable commodity on earth at the time of Jesus. Frankincense--an aromatic resin used in perfume and also a traditional gift for a king, which is considered symbolic because of Christ's divine authority. And myrrh--an incense used in burials, which is generally considered prophetic of the sacrifice of our Savior.

But did you ever stop to wonder about the Magi themselves? Their identities are greatly disputed, but their importance is well recognized. Because they were obviously not Jewish, their part in Jesus’ arrival points to the salvation offered to the Gentiles. They’re also generally thought to be scholars or astronomers, the only ones who would have taken enough note of the star to follow it. To me, that also indicates that Christ truly came to complete the Law as representing reason and logic; He calls us to faith, but also to understanding.

The traditional names of the Magi are Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar; these are in a Greek manuscript found in Alexandria in the sixth century. Given this and references to them as “kings,” historians think that Caspar may have been Rustaham-Gondofarr Suren-Pahlav, king of modern day Iran from 10 BC to 17 AD. As his name means “master of the treasury,” he is the one thought to deliver gold to our Lord.

One more interesting tidbit. On the Twelfth Day of Christmas (yesterday), observers would always scratch C+M+B onto their doorposts. Many mistake this as standing for the names of the Wise Men, but really it's an abbreviation of the Latin phrase Christ Mansionem Benedictat, which means “Christ Bless this Home.”

In this coming year, may Christ dwell with you, giving you His blessings and filling you and yours with His Spirit. May today, and every day, bring you an Epiphany of the reality of His sovereignty.


Reminder--you only have until tomorrow to enter the giveaway on The Country House Courtship!


  1. I like this: To me, that also indicates that Christ truly came to complete the Law as representing reason and logic; He calls us to faith, but also to understanding.

    The world often makes me feel like I can't be intelligent AND follow Christ. Grr.

  2. Fascinating. I don't think I knew any of that.

    Michelle V

  3. What a cool post, Roseanna! I learned a lot! Happy Epiphany to you, too. We're Anglicans, and this year decided to keep our decorations up through today.

    While the magi gave Jesus gifts of wealth, I'm also humbled that they gave Him what they had. I may not be rich in gold, but I do have other gifts and talents (which He gave to me, of course!) to offer back to Him.

    Thank you, and please keep me entered in the contest for Linore's book!

  4. I like the idea of taking down decorations on Epiphany. I'll have to remember that.