On the Sunday of the Epiphany of the Lord, we hear about gifts in the gospel reading. The image of gift is an appropriate one since today, on Epiphany Sunday, we acknowledge and celebrate the gift of God’s saving grace offered to everyone in the birth of his Son Jesus.
Each Epiphany Sunday, the Gospel reading is Matthew’s account of the visit of the Magi. Three important truths are revealed in this sacred story. First, God alone directs salvation history. King Herod tried to exercise control over the newborn Christ, assembling the chief priests and scribes of the people and meeting secretly with the Magi in an attempt to conceal his true motives to harm the infant. But God protected the baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph ,and the Magi, directing all of them to safety. A second revealed truth is that God prepared us for this gift through the words of the Jewish prophets. We hear that the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem fulfills what the prophet Micah had foretold nearly eight centuries earlier: “Bethlehem...from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel” (see Micah5:1). A third revealed truth is that Jesus is God’s gift to all nations. The Magi who brought gifts to Jesus are traditionally identified as Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. These three astrologers from the East represented the other major nations of the world in the time of Christ.
Epiphany celebrates what the visit of the Magi reveals to us: God’s gift—the gift of his newborn Son—is a gift offered to all people, for which god has long-prepared the world.