Epiphany of the LORD
In our reading from Isaiah, he prophesies to a people just returning from 70 years of exile in Babylon, and he says that the day will come when all nations will “come to their light…”. And in our gospel reading we find a fulfilment of that prophesy as visitors from the East, Magi, i.e. not Jewish people, not chosen race people…....as such folk come to Jesus, the light of the world.
Will you come to Him in some new way this year, perhaps even this day?
Let’s work through our gospel reading and see if it perhaps leads us, like a star, to some new place.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem
Not much is known about these men from the East, called Magi, or wise men. We know from Persian documents that they were a priestly class with expertise in astrology, magic and divination. Now, our Scriptures strongly condemn these things, and this reading mustn’t be taken to mean that these things are now acceptable. Rather what this passage shows is that God will reveal himself wherever people are looking for Him.
He reserves the right to reveal himself wherever He chooses....perhaps in a temple, perhaps in a stable, perhaps in a beggar on a street corner.
They 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.”
Notice the response that Jesus draws from these pagan astrologers: They want to worship Him.
Do you, do I, travel here (to this church)… to worship Him?
Can 2013 be a year perhaps when we stop coming to church… and start coming to worship?
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.
The response of the pagan astrologers was… worship.
The response of Herod (and all Jerusalem) was … disturbed.
Isn’t that strange? The King of the Jews has been born – pagans are excited about – but Jerusalem, city of David – is disturbed, troubled, worried.
“Religious” people don’t always respond well to Good News, or to the possibility of change.
We can understand Herod,...... he is a tyrant, he is not the rightful heir to the throne of David, he’s only there because the Romans have installed him as “king”.
We can understand him being disturbed by this threat to his position.
But “all Jerusalem” disturbed as well…??
These were people who went to the Temple, many of them daily and did all the right things… made sacrifices, ..........kept holy days,..............kept Sabbath......
I think part of the problem was that they were a people who went to the Temple, but who never went to worship.
When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.
The chief priests were Sadducees, the teachers of the Law were Pharisees – and these 2 groups didn’t like each other or even respect each others beliefs, but they are brought together at the birth of Christ.
They will often be brought together again during the ministry of Jesus, always with the intention of trying to catch Jesus out, and ultimately it is their coming together at the end of Jesus ministry that will ensure His murder.....If the religious people agree that this man is bad, He must be bad.
Religious people are dangerous in the Kingdom of God.
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.
And the Magi tell him – it was 2 years ago. Why does Herod want to know the exact time – because he needs to know exactly who to exterminate in order to get rid of the threat of a new king.
So Jesus, by the time the Magi visit Him… is… 2 years old.
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, 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.
Notice once again of the joy of these pagans as opposed to the worry of the religious Jews.
On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary,
Notice that Jesus is now… in a house. Born in a barn two years before during the census when town was full, but now living in a home. Joseph had obviously decided to settle in Bethlehem after Jesus’ birth.
And they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
There is of course much significance in these gifts which has no doubt been explored in previous years, today I just want to say that these gifts would have provided the financial resources for Joseph and Mary’s trip to Egypt and back which they needed to make in a hurry in order to avoid the slaughter of all 2 year olds and younger. Joseph had to shut up his business overnight and flee.
Our God is a God who provides!
So much for the reading set for today – what star, what light does it provide for us as we journey into 2013?
The gospel must always shine light on our path before we seek to discern how it should light up someone else’s life. The word of God must always cut us like a sharp two edged sword before we can use it in the life of others.
We have before us today, Herod, the religious people of the day… and the pagans/Magi.
Which group would we be comfortable in? Which group perhaps describes us best?
Perhaps the group of Herod, where hatred and fear dictate our behaviour?
Perhaps the group of the religious people… those of us in this group, we know the Bible, we know Gods word, we know what God says about… homosexuality … horoscopes… death penalty… about divorce… pork… tattoo’s…gun control..... about gambling etc etc.
In this group, we know stuff, especially religious stuff, and like the religious people of Jesus’ day, we are indifferent and blind to the new thing that God might be doing and we don’t even bother to explore,.........we don’t bother going to Bethlehem to see for ourselves.
So we have the group of Herod and the group of religious people.
Then we have the pagan/Magi group – this group.......... journeys,................ explores,................. gives.................... and worships.
Put another way, the Herod group is a group of fear and hatred, the religious group is a group governed by indifference, the Magi group is a group looking for and led by the shining star of joy and worship
Let us pray.