The Epiphany of Our Lord: a reflection on the readings - Isaiah 60.1-6, Psalm 72.1-7, 10-14, Ephesians 3. 1-12, Matthew 2.1-12 By the Rev. Dr. Sarah Rogers
Well I woke up this morning, and over my cup of coffee began thinking about what I needed to get done today and as the caffeine kicked in realised that I hadn’t written my reflection for this blog. So, I have sat down with a second cup of coffee to write it. Apologies for the lateness, it should have been done by Saturday, I don’t really have an excuse, I simply forgot. It seems that it is easy to forget things at this time of year, everything is so different...our normal routine is thrown out of kilter, the children are off school, family we haven’t seen for months come and visit, there are all Christmas parties and Church services. One of my parishioners completely forgot to come to church last Wednesday as she would usually do because she’d had the family around on New Year’s Day for a roast dinner and so thought it was Monday...everything is in a muddle. For me, I had an ‘Open House’ on Saturday, a Christmas celebration at the vicarage for my Parishioners, and because the first Sunday in the month is always Family Service, I wasn’t preaching as such yesterday.
It is entirely appropriate that at this time of year our routine is disrupted, the coming of the Messiah is an event that should cause disruption even today as we recall that great event. Mary and Joseph had the upheaval of going to Bethlehem, the shepherds were sent out of the fields by the angels to find the Christ-child, and the appearance of a great star in the sky brought the Wise Men from distant lands to worship the baby Jesus. The arrival of this new baby, the king of the Jews also frightened Herod leading him to order the execution of all baby boys under the age of three, we can only imagine what agony that brought to their mothers and fathers, life for them would never be the same again.
We don’t know how many Wise Men there were, all we know is that there was more than one and that they brought three gifts, so we assume there were three, each of them bringing a gift. They are called Wise Men because they were star-gazers, but they are also known as ‘Kings’. Tradition has it that Melchior was a Persian scholar, Caspar an Indian scholar and Balthazar an Arabian scholar. These traditions have come about as scholars over the last 2000 years have attempted to find out who these mysterious Wise Men were. They must have been reasonably wealthy to offer gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, and they were obviously quite distinguished gentlemen. I can’t help wondering whether they really travelled alone or whether they had an entourage with them, did they bring wives and servants, who else greeted the baby Jesus. In reality it doesn’t really matter, we can get too bogged down with the nitty gritty of working out who these Wise Men were, what really matters is WHY they came.
They came because God sent them, leading them by a star to Bethlehem. God has been playing a very long game, beginning with Abraham, gradually building a nation. But Jesus was not just for that nation, God was sending him into the world for everyone. So, the Wise Men come to represent us all. They remind us that it doesn’t matter where we come from, what we look like, who are parents were or what language we speak. Everyone can know God. The Wise Men represented all the nations, so God not only welcomed them, but us as well.
Now that Christmas is over life is getting back to normal. The children are returning to school, work routines are back to normal. But, let us not forget the disruption that the arrival of the Messiah caused as we welcomed him again at Christmas. Over the next few weeks the Messiah will be revealed to us when John Baptises his cousin, through the first miracle at the wedding at Cana when water is changed into wine, when Jesus reveals that he is the fulfilment of the scripture in the synagogue in Nazareth and finally in the Temple at Candlemas when Simeon and Anna see Jesus they recognise the child as the Messiah, but not just the Messiah of Israel but as Simeon says ‘a light for revelation to the Gentiles.’ For those who witnessed these events there must have been great confusion, they must have been disturbed, unsettled. As our routines get back to normal, let us continue to be disturbed by God, but also to make sure that in all we do we make sure that the presence of God disturbs those around us as well.