Sunday, January 6, 2008
Twelfth Night. Three Kings Day. The Feast of Epiphany. Though the church has rescheduled it, I still cling to a January 6 celebration. It's bittersweet for me - the official end of Christmas! Waaaaahhhhh! I still remember leaving my shoes out as a little girl in the hopes of one or two last treats from the kings as they passed by.
Yes, I know, they weren't kings, and there weren't necessarily three of them. I know what the scholars say. Learned all that my freshman year in Catholic high school: Jesus was probably born in Nazareth, not Bethlehem, and the star was symbolic, chosen by the author of Matthew as a sign for the newborn King of Kings, the Messiah as he understood Jesus to be, and in fact the infancy narratives in both Matthew and Luke were probably created to convey meaning rather than fact, hero stories about a signficant birth, a common device/genre at the time and in the culture in which the authors wrote. Fairy tales or not, I love the Nativity and Epiphany narratives anyway, and I believe in what they dramatize - concern over how to prepare for and raise a special child, fear over surrounding political dangers, a series of journeys during which a fledgling family had to figure out where they belonged and how they were to live in the world. The stories convey these very real challenges better than any long-winded, abstract reflections, and for this I embrace them, happily.
And I still enjoy the speculation over what the Star of Bethlehem could have been, if indeed it shone in the sky in real time all those years ago. Here's a fascinating article about the errors often perpetuated about the star in planetarium Christmas shows, and here a summary of star theories for folks who have fun imagining the possibilities - including the possibility that the very romantic story we all know and love, of a luminous sign in the heavens seen by wise men at its rising, did happen as we imagine.