This Saturday, January 6, is the Feast of the Epiphany, when we celebrate the coming of the magi to the Christ Child. A couple of things to note - nowhere in the Bible does it say there were three; we only know that there was more than one because the noun is the plural form. And there were three gifts named: gold, frankincense, and myrrh, so the Church has maintained the tradition that the three gifts were brought by three visitors. And despite what crèches around the world (including our own) depict, the magi did not arrive at the manger in Bethlehem. We can infer from what the story says that it was sometime within the first two years of Jesus' life that they came, but the exact date we don't know. What we do know is that the coming of the magi - who were foreigners and not even practicing foreign Jews - represent the coming of the Messiah to the whole world and not simply to the nation of Israel. That is why in many parts of Eastern Christianity, Christmas is actually celebrated on January 6. The view the Feast of the Nativity as the gift of the Messiah to Israel and what we all The Epiphany as that same gift to the whole world.
This Sunday is the First Sunday After the Epiphany, which is the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus. It is one of the days the Prayer Book designates as appropriate for the sacrament of Baptism to be administered, and since we do not have any baptisms scheduled at St. Michael's this year, all of us present on Sunday will renew our own Baptismal Covenant. The Feast of the Epiphany is important, though, even to us Western Christians, so we're going to play a little fast and loose with the rubrics this Sunday and celebrate both it and the Baptism of Jesus on the same day. Our Christmas decorations will be taken down and put away, as Christmas season will be over, but for this one last day we will still keep the crèche in the church, complete as last with the visiting magi.