FreerangeWorship: Still Epiphany! We can keep Celebrating!

by Lilly Lewin
Three Wise Men Alma Thomas

By Lilly Lewin

1-2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem village, Judah territory— this was during Herod’s kingship—a band of scholars arrived in Jerusalem from the East. They asked around, “Where can we find and pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews? We observed a star in the eastern sky that signaled his birth. We’re on pilgrimage to worship him.”
3-4 When word of their inquiry got to Herod, he was terrified—and not Herod alone, but most of Jerusalem as well. Herod lost no time. He gathered all the high priests and religion scholars in the city together and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”
5-6 They told him, “Bethlehem, Judah territory. The prophet Micah wrote it plainly:
It’s you, Bethlehem, in Judah’s land, no longer bringing up the rear.
From you will come the leader
who will shepherd-rule my people, my Israel.”
7-8 Herod then arranged a secret meeting with the scholars from the East. Pretending to be as devout as they were, he got them to tell him exactly when the birth-announcement star appeared. Then he told them the prophecy about Bethlehem, and said, “Go find this child. Leave no stone unturned. As soon as you find him, send word and I’ll join you at once in your worship.”
9-10 Instructed by the king, they set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time!
11 They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh.
12 In a dream, they were warned not to report back to Herod. So they worked out another route, left the territory without being seen, and returned to their own country.  MATTHEW 2: 1-12 THE MESSAGE

I didn’t grow up celebrating Epiphany. I had a great aunt Dot who talked about the 12th Night and she always had her tree up til Epiphany, but I didn’t really understand the connection to the visit of the Magi. I definitely didn’t have a connection to the church year calendar.

Now I celebrate a Season of Epiphany. Not just one day. I don’t just jump back into regular life if I can help it. In fact my tree is still lit and my decorations are still up at least for a few more days. I’ve noticed several people in my neighborhood still have their trees lit up at night. I think we are all are in need of the Light. We aren’t ready to move on to the next thing.

Last week I offered the Invitation to Follow the Star into the new year and the new season ahead. This week I invite you to consider what it was like to be the Magi. What was it like to journey back home? Growing up, I didn’t really know anything about the traditional names or ages of the Magi or that they probably didn’t arrive in Bethlehem til Jesus was a young toddler. At my house, the three figures of the “Wise Men” were in the manger scene arriving on the night of Jesus’s birth bringing their gifts to the baby.

How about you? Did you celebrate Epiphany? What was your impression of the Magi growing up? Did you have one? Did you pay attention?

Here’s artist Ted Lyddon Hatten’s view :

“Epiphany, January 6, marks the arrival of the gift-toting, star-following magi: Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthazar.
The story of the Wise Men has many versions. The one I grew up with had them offering gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh from Asia, Persia, and Africa, respectively. Each magi represented a different culture from a different season of life. Melchior was 60, Gaspar in his 40’s, and Balthazar was the 20-year-old wise man from Ethiopia.
Balthazar was by far my favorite figurine in the nativity set from my childhood. His skin was the color of chocolate, his treasure chest, like his lips, was sealed tight. While all the other figures stood in awe, Balthazar took a knee.
I don’t know what ever became that nativity set, but the spell that Balthazar cast over me still holds.
Myrrh, the gift he brought to the Messiah’s baby shower left a trail of intrigue that I continue to follow in my work as an artist. Myrrh was a costly burial spice, which makes tragic sense.
The wisdom of a 20-year old Black man is as clear as the yonder star over a weary Bethlehem. Life is fleeting, particularly for Black and Brown-skinned babies. Balthazar was covering the funeral costs upfront for a death he knew would come too soon.
To honor Balthazar, his wisdom, and the Black lives we carelessly discard, here are a few images of my work with myrrh over the years.

What do you notice? What make you curious? You might check out more on
on the Magi from Wikipedia


Adoration of the Magi Rubens

Adoration of the Magi Rubens

Now read and ponder the poem by T. S. Eliot

The Journey of the Magi

‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

What sparks your attention in the poem?

Imagine what it was like to be one of the Magi….Heading home from seeing the Baby King….Their saddle bags are empty but their hearts are full. They found the One they’d been looking for, but now they have to go back home another way.

Weren’t they tired? They didn’t seem to get to stay very long and revel in their discovery of Jesus.
I never really thought about what they felt like or how long they might have gotten to spend with Jesus.

Did the new way home take longer than it did to get there?
Was this route more dangerous than the one they just completed?

What was home life like when they returned? Had people changed? Did they want to hear about the journey? Did they want to see the post cards and look at all the photos? Or were they just indifferent?

How have we changed after we’ve seen Jesus? After we’ve had an encounter with him?
What are we like when we get back home?

How has meeting Jesus changed you this past year?

Consider how your journey with Jesus has changed you in the last few weeks, months. What do you notice? What did you learn?

How do you anticipate your journey going forward into the new year? Do you have to go back a different way?

Are you expecting things to take longer? Are you expecting conflict or smooth sailing ? Talk to Jesus about this.

Who do you need to journey with?
What gifts, resources or supplies do you need to journey on the road of 2024? Take some time to consider the journey ahead.

I know that I need the extra time of the Epiphany season to help me to keep the celebration going. To help me remember the gifts of last year. I need the season of Epiphany to reconnect to the story of Jesus being born and the entire world changing forever. To help me remember how meeting Jesus this past year has changed me!

I need to keep lighting candles, making time to listen and taking time to look at the stars and receive the wonder of Immanuel.


Epiphany Centerpiece

If you’ve put away the Christmas decorations, find something new to remind you of the Magi and the celebration of Epiphany. You might create a new center piece with  stars or three containers or gifts to represent the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Allow the stars and the Gifts of the Magi to remind you that Jesus is with you on our journey. You might create a pathway or find a new place or route to walk as a part of your epiphany practice.

IMG 6532

Star Words

Choose a STAR WORD or two and allow Jesus to inspire you.  Here’s a List of Words you can cut out and choose from.

Take time to Look and Listen just like the Magi of old. You might create your own Epiphany Play List to listen to the rest of January.



Remember that Jesus even knows what it’s like to have to leave in the middle of the night and not really know the path. We are not alone. Jesus is with us on the road.


May the blessing of light be upon you,

Light without and Light within…

And in all your comings and goings,

May you ever have a kindly greeting

From any you meet along the road.
From old Gaelic p. 1091 Celtic Daily Prayer book 2

MAIN ART: The Three Wise Men by Alma Thomas

©lillylewin and

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