The Magi have left the Sacristy, headed for the crèche. Let me explain.
One of my favorite things about our resplendent Christmas decorations is our crèche. While many churches have grand, elaborate nativity sets, with wooden barns, hay, or numerous figurines, ours sits humbly on a table with a starched white table cloth, in that understated Colonial architectural manner.
Immediately behind it are a bank of red and white poinsettias, which really pop against the Colonial white table and walls.
As people approach the altar, or the lectern side Communion standing station, they see a full, close-up view of this crèche. I always wonder how a child views our crèche, as the table is the perfect height for a child to stand and gaze.
However, the Magi do not arrive at the crèche until the Feast of the Epiphany, which is always January 6, precisely twelve days after Christmas.
(Yes, the traditional song has liturgical meaning and historical significance.)
Rather than simply placing the figurines of Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar in the crèche before the morning of January 6, the Holy Communion Altar Guild has always played along with the story.
Sometime around December 26, our Magi depart the Sacristy door and make an immediate left, which is actually due-east. The scriptures say that they “came from the east.”
The Magi then wind throughout Quilling Memorial Chapel, where on any given day this week you might find them in one of those gorgeous Colonial palladium window sills, or in a chair, or on the credence table by the chapel altar.
If you happen to be in the building this Saturday, you might see the Magi on the chancel rail by the piano. Almost there.
By Sunday morning, the Feast of the Epiphany, the Magi will be in place at the manger.
Speaking of which: the Feast of the Epiphany is significant this year because it falls on a Sunday. In the Book of Common Prayer, there are seven Principal Feasts of the Church, often called “red letter days,” which may supplant the regular Sunday proper readings depending upon how the calendar falls. (see BCP p. 15)
Rather than the “Whatevereth” Sunday after the Epiphany, this year the Epiphany is a Sunday itself, Sunday, January 6.
We have some significant music planned for this Sunday’s 10:30 AM service. The Parish Choir will sing John Weaver’s “Epiphany Alleluias,” accompanied by organ and gong. The gong sounds so authentic that worshipers will think that the Magi are standing in the narthex.
The Magi (Parish Choir members representing the Magi, actually) will sing assigned stanzas of “We Three Kings” in procession at the Gospel reading, with the congregation joining in on the refrain each time.
The organ voluntaries will be grand settings of the German chorale “How bright appears the Morning Star” by Dietrich Buxtehude (north German) and Johann Pachelbel (south German).
For the Introit, the choir will sing a contemporary setting of a beautiful 18th century poem by Christopher Smart (1722-1771):
Where is this stupendous stranger?
Gentle shepherd now, advise.
Lead me to my Master’s manger,
Show me where my Savior lies.
O Most Mighty! O Most Holy!
Far beyond the seraph’s thought,
Art thou then so weak and lowly
As unheeded prophets taught?
O the magnitude of meekness!
Worth from worth immortal sprung;
O the strength of infant weakness,
If eternal is so young!
God all bounteous, all creative
Whom no ills from good dissuade,
Is incarnate, and a native
Of the very world he made.