January 2, 2022
Jeremiah 31:7-14 Psalm 84:1-8 Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-19a Matthew 2:2-12
This coming Thursday, January 6th, is the feast of the Epiphany. Today’s gospel is the reading for the celebration of Epiphany. The word epiphany is used to describe a sudden understanding of some truth – and it is used to describe a sudden awareness of the divine. We celebrate the Epiphany as the date the magi, or wise men, arrive from the East to pay homage to the Christ Child. Our reading from Matthew is the only account we have of this event. The wise men were likely astronomers and who upon discovering a star, know it will guide them to the newly born king of the Jews.
Being from the East, they were not Jewish. This means that the star is, for them, is a divine epiphany of the nature of Jesus. They may not understand all the implications of his birth, but they do understand it is significant and worthy of their journey to find him. There are no planes, trains, or automobiles, so it is a very long journey. You will note that when they do arrive they find Jesus in a house – not a manger. Thus, by the time it takes for them to get to Bethlehem, Jesus is no longer an infant, he is a small child.
Matthew’s Gospel makes it clear from the beginning, with this story, that Jesus has come to bring all people closer to God – Jews and Gentiles alike. Like in Luke’s Gospel, the first to come to see Jesus are not the leaders of his faith, they are the Shepherds and the Magi from afar. God, in Jesus, has entered our world to restore the relationship of all people to God.
In fact, in both Luke and Matthew Jesus is challenged by the righteous for associating with sinners. He responds to the Pharisees by saying, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” He also says, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” In Matthew, he adds, “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice (Matthew 9:13).’” Many of us, even those of us that others might consider righteous, are in need of healing. We live in a world that is full of conflict, of disagreement, distrust, and disease. We don’t make sacrifices, we don’t show mercy, instead we judge others as good or evil, right or wrong. We live in a world where taking a side is more important than coming together to solve problems. Just watching the news can be depressing, it can be overwhelming. And, the latest surge in the number of COVID-19 cases may have stifled the hopes of some for a better year.
Personally, I find hope in the prayers offered by Paul for the people is Ephesus. “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe.” Note that Paul begins by praying they may receive “a spirit of wisdom and REVELATION as you come to know him.” Whether or not we have experienced a sudden awareness of the divine is not as important as allowing our faith to grow as we come to know the saving grace Christ offers. An epiphany does not eliminate all doubt – doubt creeps into all lives as the trials and tribulations of the world challenge our faith.
Sheltering from the virus, living in fear, experiencing loss, and worrying about all the conflict in our world are all isolating. Fear, grief, and worry draw our attention inward. Perhaps the greatest challenge for some of us is to realize that our faith will not protect us from adversity. Instead, our faith helps us see beyond our troubles and feel Christ’s love in the midst of these experiences. Christ’s love offers us the strength and courage we need to continue forward. It may not change the outcome, but it does help us know we are not alone. We are loved and we are part of something greater, something that can change the world.
The magi journeyed for a year or more, to be in the presence of Christ. Our journey of faith will take a lifetime. The question is, where are we headed? Are we seeking to live in God’s presence? Like the star the magi men followed, the light of Christ guides us through the darkness. To be in the presence of God is worth the journey – no matter how long it takes. Our hope for a better year can be found by following the light of Christ.
Let us pray.
Loving and gracious God, we give thanks to you for the love you have made known to us through your Son, Jesus Christ. Help us, we pray, to find in your love the strength and hope we need as we face yet another time of trial. Then, lead us into serving others in your Holy Name. Amen.