by Bil Aulenbach

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Happy Baloney Day—January 6

Happy what? Baloney Day? January 6?

January 6 is really the feast day of the Epiphany, when the church celebrates the Magi bringing gifts to the infant Jesus in Bethlehem.

This story is found in the Gospel of Matthew 2:1–12. It first appeared nine decades after Jesus was born. This tale was never intended to give accurate information about the birth of Jesus. No one knows where and when he was really born.

The Magi story was written to tell the Jewish people that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, identified not only by the smartest of the smart (the Magi) from far away but also by a celestial sign, a special star.

The story is preposterous. Jesus was not born in Bethlehem. His family was from Nazareth. If the story was true, and it’s not, then the Wise Men recognizing the star, coordinating their trip, and journeying to Bethlehem probably took a couple of years.

Real stars do not stand still, especially over houses. In the Old Testament, stars often represented angels.

Here’s where more baloney enters the story. Over the years, storytellers have told us that three kings visited baby Jesus, but Matthew never mentions the number of Magi or whether they were rulers. Anywhere from two to a hundred Magi could have barged in on Mary and Jesus.

Further embellishments to the tale gave the three kings names: Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar. They supposedly rode camels (or horses in Turkey). However, Matthew says nothing about the Magi’s names or mode of transportation.

Most people think that Jesus was born in a stable. The Gospel of Matthew says the Wise Men found Jesus in a house (2:11). The truth is that the Bible never says exactly where Jesus was born. Luke claims Jesus’s first cradle was a manger because there was no room in the inn but never mentions a stable. Again, we’ll never know, but the historical Jesus was probably born in a house in Nazareth.

In 336 CE, the Roman emperor Constantine arbitrarily choose December 25 as Jesus’s birthday. I call that baloney.

Another load of baloney is the traditional Christmas pageant, which combines both the Matthew and the Luke accounts so that we have shepherds, stars, angels, Wise Men, farm animals, an inn, and a manger containing a white baby doll all appear in the same pageant.

Here’s some more baloney.

In Bulgaria, someone throws a cross in the ocean or a lake, and then men dive in and try to find the cross. What in the world does that have to do with Epiphany?

In Latin America, the children fill their shoes with food for the Wise Men’s camels, and then the Magi come and bring them gifts.

In France, people bake a little figurine of Jesus into a cake or loaf of bread. The bread or cake is then cut, and whoever finds the figurine gets to bake Jesus the next year. What does that have to do with Epiphany?

Thus, I call the feast of the Epiphany Baloney Day because so many folks have taken a simple story telling believers that Jesus is the Christ and made it into unbelievable baloney.

I think Followers should go back to the original purpose of the Magi tale. It’s a metaphorical story in which believers have this great epiphany: Jesus is our Christ, and like the Magi, we need to follow him and do agape.

No more baloney. It only detracts from following.

Image courtesy of Robert Couse-Baker (CC BY 2.0)

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