When I was young – past the age of Santa visitations yet not old enough for confirmation studies – I learned a song about the Day of the Holy Kings in Mexico. My elementary music teacher used this song (and others) to expand my and my classmates’ awareness of other cultures. We also learned how Mexican children participated in “Las Posadas,” a Christmas celebration and procession honoring Mary and Joseph, in which they carried lighted candles. And we heard they not only received presents from Santa for Christmas but gifts from the three wise men on Jan. 6 – the Day of the Holy Kings.
“Why Jan. 6?” I asked.
“That’s the 12th day of Christmas,” she said, “the day Christians celebrate the wise men coming to see baby Jesus.”
The 12 days were not a countdown to Christmas? The magi came on a certain date? How had I not known? In that moment, I experienced something for which I had not yet acquired language. I had an epiphany about Epiphany.
My confirmation pastor would introduce me to the liturgical observation of Epiphany. A professor at Wartburg College would teach me about historical debates regarding King Herod’s decree. Someone’s writings on liturgical seasons (from a source I cannot remember) would inform me that Jan. 6 aligns with the Jewish Feast of Lights. And I, through personal study, would muse over the symbolism of the magi following a star through darkness – heavenly light leading seers to the Christ.
As a child, I believed Mexican children – walking streets with lighted candles – understood more about Christmas than I, but I’ve since experienced how light cutting through darkness brings God close – brilliantly so.
A woman doing my laundry as my husband lay in a hospital bed, recovering after nearly dying. A man kneeling beside my son in his wheelchair to talk about hockey – both men the same age chronologically but decades apart intellectually. A friend listening as I cried over a sense of loss I could not articulate, then softly speaking my name, “Joy.” Each person carried light. They delivered messages – offerings – specifically for me. And I joyfully received them, epiphanies.
“When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy” (Matthew 2:10).
We are magi; we are light to one another. And we journey together, carrying light through darkness and offering gifts that honor our Messiah. May we not weary as we wander through our nights.