This is the final post in Twelvetide, a series to mark the Twelve Days of Christmas. It’s been quite a journey, finding treasures to appreciate each day along the way.
For our family, January 6th is a very special date: it’s my husband’s birthday! I’m very thankful to be able to celebrate him as one of the very best of treasures.
January 6th is special for many other people around the world, because it is ‘Old Christmas’. In the liturgical calendar of the Christian church it marks the Feast of the Epiphany. The word ‘Epiphany’ means ‘a revealing’ and this important Christian feast celebrates the visit of the ‘Wise Men’ or the Magi. These were the ‘Three Kings of Orient’ we sing about in the song. We read in Scripture that the Magi were Gentiles who had seen a special star in the sky and had followed it to Jerusalem in search of the one born ‘king of the Jews’. Their story is told in Matthew’s gospel:
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.””
After an eventful journey, the Magi at last came face to face with Christ. This was the great revealing of Christ to the Gentiles: not as a king in a palace, as might have been expected, but as a little child with his mother, in a house in Bethlehem.
“and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”
The Magi clearly believed the child Jesus to be the Christ, and they worshipped him. But not everyone shared their faith. Years later, in the middle of a dispute about his identity, Jesus told the people:
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.””
‘Lumen Mundi’ is a poem I wrote in 2019, inspired by the light of Christ shining into our darkness. I had the privilege of reading this poem at the New Irish Christmas event in December 2019, in the Waterfront Hall in Belfast. Irish artist and sculptor Ross Wilson created this striking image to accompany the words. I am very grateful to Ross and to Jonathan Rea, Creative Director at New Irish Arts for their generous collaboration.
Epiphany seems like a good time to share this poem with you. You can listen to a recording of me reading the poem at the Belfast’s Waterfront, accompanied by Jonathan Rea. To listen, press the play button.
We thought we had imagined it
or that it had appeared to us in a dream.
We looked again: the star was real.
We saw it at midnight; so bright.
So small. An unexpected pinpoint of light
that is all. Before our present
and after our beyond. It had pierced
the silent fabric of the story of our sky
a universe ago and is fastened
to the canopy of our darkest night.
Like an alphabet inscribed
in ancient ink across the Heavens
it cannot be removed. Like the sound
of hope from Gabriel:
‘Do not fear. No word from God
can ever fail’. The quiet promise
of Immanuel, the music of the spheres.
Listen, hear it, worship. And be still.
Sharon Jones, December 2019.