Today is Epiphany, which is the day we celebrate the Sorcerers visiting Baby Jesus.
Maybe you haven’t heard it stated quite like that before. We prefer to talk about the Wise Men visiting the Baby Jesus. I think we call them that because it makes the story a little more… palatable. We’d rather have Wise Men visit Baby Jesus than Sorcerers, right?
I say no.
A few years ago I was obsessed with this story. I don’t know why it took so long for it to click for me, but I was thinking about these men who followed the star. Not only did they follow the star, but they saw it appear.
In 2020 we had the opportunity to see the astronomical phenomenon that’s thought to have created the star the Magi saw, so many people fled city lights and found places without a lot of trees (which was supposed to reduce visibility) to see this special star. (At least, my sister, her family, and I did.) But the Magi weren’t alerted to this special phenomenon like we were. It wasn’t on the news and they weren’t told where to go and look to see it. They were watching the stars and they saw this special star appear.
Once they saw the star, they connected it to an old prophecy. They didn’t have to be told this star was important; they already knew it was. They were astrologers.
Another term we use for the Wise Men is Magi. They were Magicians.
I worked up the courage to let my theory be dashed and talked to my Pastor Dad. “This is discussed in Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes,” he said, referencing a book by Kenneth Bailey. If you’re interested in learning more about some of the Bible stories you heard growing up but from a cultural perspective, this is the book for you. (Just an FYI, you get a different take on Jesus’ birth.) He grabbed his copy and we opened it to the third chapter, in which Bailey talks about meeting descendants of the Magi who are astrologers and magicians.
I even shared this with my pastor. When we looked up the root of the words used, we found magician and even sorcerer when we explored the KJV.
This is when I decided I would no longer use Wise Men and would only call them the Magi. It’s not that I don’t think they’re wise. It’s because I think when we take the Magician out of the Magi we take the magic out Epiphany.
Just look at the definition of Epiphany: an appearance or manifestation, especially of a deity. The definition on Google references a deity or a supernatural being.
Ultimately, why does this matter?
It matters because Jesus came for all people. Christians know that. We believe that. We profess that. And yet… there are people we’ll sometimes distance ourselves from. You know, “those people” that you’re not sure you should spend time with. I’m sure there have been different groups of “those people” over the years but one group that fits the definition now is, I believe, the magic folk. The astrologers. We’re not sure we should connect with those people. For some, we don’t even want our children to read Harry Potter.
And yet those are some of the first people who were led to see Baby Jesus.
The astrologers. The magicians. The sorcerers.
And they came bearing gifts they knew he needed because of the prophecies: gold (for a king), frankincense (for a priest), and myrrh (for burial).
Because Jesus came for all people.