Saturday, 7 January 2012

The Epiphany

GospelMatthew 2:1-12 

After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judaea during the reign of King Herod, some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east. ‘Where is the infant king of the Jews?’ they asked. ‘We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.’ When King Herod heard this he was perturbed, and so was the whole of Jerusalem. He called together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, and enquired of them where the Christ was to be born. ‘At Bethlehem in Judaea,’ they told him ‘for this is what the prophet wrote:
And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
you are by no means least among the leaders of Judah,
for out of you will come a leader
who will shepherd my people Israel.’
Then Herod summoned the wise men to see him privately. He asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared, and sent them on to Bethlehem. ‘Go and find out all about the child,’ he said ‘and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.’ Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And there in front of them was the star they had seen rising; it went forward, and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. But they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way.

We do a great disservice to the Magi. We dress them up in pantomime finery; give them unpronounceable names and smile at them for the incongruity of their gifts. The (small 't') traditions have stifled the importance of the Magi's visit: made them straitlaced. Their appearance (and especially the inclusion of their royal status) lends a respectable finale to a tale that certainly includes some characters with dubious backgrounds. We imagine them picking their way gingerly through the mud and straw to assure Mary that her Son really is someone important – because - they would know. 

They did know - but not because of their status; their wealth or their position in society. 
They knew not because they had blind faith - but because they had reason to believe. 

'In the beginning' God spoke a tiny spark into life - a word that, 14 billion years later, flared into the constellations surrounding our earth - a word that said 'Here is the One'. 

God spoke a promise into the ears of Micah that little Bethlehem would be the place.

The promise that the chosen people knew - the scribes knew - the Temple knew -  but did not live in anticipation of; did not watch for; did not expect - did not want. They remained in the darkness. 

There were other chosen people to sought the Light- strangers to the promise but with open hearts; watchful minds; people who were awake to the vibrations of the angels wings; to the pulse of the watchful star; to a baby's cry.

Those who were prepared to stake reputation; to leave family; to risk the dangers of travel; to risk the hospitality of strangers. To follow more than a star and for more than two weeks - they arrive at the house, not at the stable and Mary has a child, not a baby. 

Jesus invites us all 'Come and See'. The Magi accepted the invitation and despite their wisdom, knowledge and status - knelt at the feet of a child - greater than gold, frankincese and myrrh - God's gift.