Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany, a great feast commemorating the divinity and Lordship of our Lord and God Jesus Christ. On this feast we remember the faith of the great men from the east, the three wise men, or often known as the three ‘kings’, who come from a far-off land to honour and glorify the Saviour who was born in Bethlehem.
They came to praise the Lord, whose birth was foretold by the prophets, and whose birth was marked by the appearance of the great star in the heavens. The Light of the world had indeed come into this world, and no more appropriately marked by a sign of great light. That was why the wise men came to Him who is Lord, bearing with them great gifts worthy of our Lord Jesus.
The wise men brought with them the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These were great and precious gifts, each of which had a deep, symbolic meaning, each of which also highlighted the truth about Jesus, who is both King and Lord God of all, who came into this world, so that through Him all may be saved.
Gold is the offering fit for a king. Ever since ages past, due to its appearance and its rarity, gold had been used for many important purposes, especially as money or decorations, or as works of art. They were so precious that they fetched a great price, and this is true even until today. So why is gold given as a gift to our Lord? That is because He is indeed a King, the One and True King of all, the King of kings, whose authority encompasses all of creations.
In giving the Lord Jesus the gift of gold, the wise men honoured the Lordship and kingship of Jesus, of the authority and power which He wields over all things, in all of creations. They honoured the Lord as King of glory, the One from whom ultimately all power and authority originate from. The Lord’s power and rule is absolute, and this is what this gift of gold is meant to teach us.
Then frankincense, just as the incense we use at our celebration of the Mass, is meant to be used for worship. Frankincense is in particular the best and the greatest among incense, the best quality of all. And indeed, the gift of frankincense highlighted the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, the divine Lord and Almighty God, who alone is worthy of worship.
The Lord Jesus is divine, and this fact cannot be refuted or denied, despite the attempts of many to do so. Jesus is not just merely a holy man or a prophet, because He is truly far greater than all of that. He is the Logos, the Word of God made personal in Jesus, as the Divine incarnate. As such, He is one with God and is God, and through Him the world was created. He was present before the beginning of time and before all things came into being.
We should not have any other gods except God, and we should worship Him and Him alone. And Jesus is divine, and as such is worthy of worship, and indeed we are actually obliged to give Him the proper honour and worship. That is the message and understanding behind the gift of the frankincense to the baby Jesus, man but also fully divine at the same time.
But it is not all about majesty and glory that Jesus came into the world. The last gift of the three, that is myrrh, highlighted this reality. The myrrh is a precious material used to help preserve the dead bodies, and to prepare them for burial. It is indeed a weird gift, is it not? Who would give a baby a gift that is used to preserve and prepare a man’s burial?
But that is how wonderful the feast of Epiphany is, because just as the meaning of the word Epiphany, this feast marks the opening of our understanding to the true nature of our Lord Jesus Christ, that first He is King, as represented by the gift of gold; and that He is Lord and God, as represented by the offering of frankincense; and last but not least, the gift of myrrh, which symbolises the singular important event, for which Jesus Christ came into the world.
That event was the Passion of our Lord, when He suffered, persecuted, punished, and eventually died on the cross, all for the sake of the reparation of our sins. He died and was buried, and it is this burial which was highlighted by the gift of the myrrh. For it is important that the Lord Jesus die, that in His death, we too will join Him in dying to our old, sinful selves, and then risen in glory together with the resurrection of Jesus.
The gift of myrrh signified this great event, when our Lord made Himself the Lamb of sacrifice, to bear the sins of the world. He who is Divine was willing to come down into this world, and to suffer human rejection and condemnation, and to suffer a most humiliating death, that is death on the cross. All these so that we, the most beloved among those He had created, can be once again reunited with Him.
Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as the Epiphany and the gift and offerings of the three wise men highlighted the true nature of God and the centre important issues of our faith, let us all use this opportunity, to reflect on our own relationship with God. Have we realised the great love that God has for all of us? Do we then choose to obey and follow Him? Or do we instead prefer to reject Him and continue to walk in the darkness?
Christ is the Light of the world and He has come to liberate us from darkness. Just as the three wise men had followed Jesus from afar and came to worship and pay their obeisance to Him, we too should follow their examples. Offer God our love, obedience, and devotion, and offer Him the gifts from our hearts. Be faithful to God, and follow His ways, for in His love, He had given much love for us and show us how to lead a faithful life to Him, that we may be saved. God be with us all. Amen.