The Epiphany, Three Kings Day, concludes the traditional Christmas season.

Christmas is the story of the God who came to earth to connect with people.

The Epiphany (Matthew 2:1-12) is a story of people connecting with God in the person of Jesus.

The Magi from the East

Magi were wise sages who served as expert advisers to royal leaders.

They saw a certain star that announced a new king of the Jews was born. When your job is advising kings, you look for stars like that! They grabbed gifts fit for a royal family birth.  These were not baby toys! They traveled to the Jew’s capital city, to the royal palace … because that is where kings are born.

Then they discovered that the current king did not know about the new baby king. Yeah, that was awkward! Then they learned of an ancient prophecy that the Messiah (a special king) would be born in Bethlehem. Then they traveled to that remote rural town.

There they found a baby, not born to royalty, but to a displaced unwed couple of an occupied land. There they found a baby, not born in a palace, but in the most humble setting of a manger.

Magi normally interacted with royalty and stayed in luxury palaces. Magi were normally waited on by people like the family in the manger!

None of that mattered when the magi encountered Jesus. There was something about the baby that caused them to do the culturally unthinkable.

The esteemed magi bowed down and worshiped the baby born who was born in a manger.  The esteemed magi gave gifts fit for royalty to a family who would never see that much treasure in their lifetime.

Then, the story tells us, the magi were full of joy! They were full of joy as they gave and worshiped. They were full of joy as people who had connected with God.

While Christmas centers on God coming to earth to connect with people, Epiphany is about people actually experiencing that connection with God in Jesus.  It provides a model to receive that connection today.

The magi’s humility enabled them to connect with God.

The magi bent down before Jesus in humble worship.

The magi humbly gave their best to Jesus.

May we humble ourselves and connect God this Epiphany.

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Is connecting with God at Christmas really an option for ordinary people?

Let’s  look at the story of the first Christmas again.

The story includes a group of ordinary people at a common job on just another day. Actually, they were below average in their day – a lower class, out of sync culturally, shunned religiously, plus they were smelly …

A group of shepherds were spending another night in the darkness of the fields

In the midst of darkness – a great light appeared. The light was the radiance of God.

Then an angel appeared.  An  angel was a messenger of God who carried with them the authority of God.

All of this happened to shepherds in the pasture – not priests in the temple or kings in the palace.

The angel announced “Good News of Great Joy for Everyone.”

The term “good news” was a royal declaration.

The shepherd were not used to being in the loop on royal or religious declarations.

But this message was for “everyone.”

It would bring great joy to everyone.

Even average people, even nobodies, even social and religious outcasts, even smelly shepherds.

Even you and me.

The good news was that the Savior, the Messiah, the Lord is born.

Why would this child bring “great joy” to everyone?

A multitude of angels appeared to summarize the implications of this birth.

They sang (some news is just that good!):

Glory to God in the highest places (because he has brought …)

Peace to the earth (because …)

His favor rests upon people.

This ancient message of Christmas is big.

Big enough for all of us.

How can you better realized the favor of God and peace on earth this Christmas?

How can you live more fully in the light of God’s Christmas declaration?

For many of us the Christmas season is anything but a spiritual time. It is a time packed with activities, cultural pressure, financial anxiety, and family dysfunction.

But at its core, Christmas is a deeply spiritual story.

Christmas is not just a story about people reaching up and connecting with God.

Christmas is the story of the God who came down to connect with people.

The author John put it rather poetically,

The Word was God.

The Word came to dwell among us.

It is an astonishing claim, God took making connection with us upon Himself. God Came to Us!

The author Matthew gave the Christmas baby two names.

The first, Jesus, was fairly common in his day. It means, “God Saves.

People believed that God was the hope to rescue them.

The second name was unheard of, Emanuel. That name means “God with Us.”

It is one thing to have the belief that God can, and will, save us.

It is another thing to believe that God is with us

Here in our midst.

Real world

Real life.

Christmas is a story of the God who came to dwell with people.

While many people forgot about God,

Others turned against God,

Still others strive to connect with God,

Christmas is the story of the God who came down with us.

God gave us Himself at Christmas.

God gave us more than a religious gift or a theological gift.

God gave us a relational gift.

Matthew who began the story identifying Emmanuel, also ended the story with the promise of presence.

“Surely I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

For Matthew, the story is all about the God who is with people.

Today the story of Jesus is still the story Emmanuel, God with us.

Even in the midst of the Christmas season.

How will you more fully realize the presence of God this Christmas?