Today is Epiphany- apparently without a definite article of any kind, so here’s what I shared yesterday morning around the early verses of Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 2:
Epiphany- the encounter between the Magi and Jesus. The word also means a sudden realisation of the meaning of something or of the nature of reality… in modern slang people might call it a ‘game-changer’: something that changes the way you look at life, the way you do things… your understanding of everything.
Pop quiz- how many kings visited Jesus in the stable? How many wise men visited Jesus in Bethlehem? Where did they find Jesus?
– We know there was more than 1, we know there were 3 gifts mentioned, we know Mary, Joseph and Jesus were living in a house.
Looking beyond this mornings text, its probable that Jesus was a young child, under the age of 2.
In the traditional retelling of the nativity, the unnumbered visitors have become 3, the wise men became kings, their origins and names have gone from complete uncertainty to… Caspar- a king of India, Balthazaar- a king of Arabia and Melchior- a king of Persia… Though actually, if you look around the world at different traditions the names, places of origin and number varies.
So what remains constant from the different versions?
Well, if we don’t know who they were, we do at least know who they weren’t- they were not Jews, they were not ‘God-fearers’, they came from a foreign country.
The star- the birth of the Christ was significant on a cosmic scale, not just locally, regionally, nationally or even globally.
What they were looking for- the king of the Jews- though they didn’t seem to know whether that king would be an heir of Herod or some other kind of king- it seems they didn’t know they were looking for the son of God, though when they found Jesus they bowed and worshipped him.
And that’s how it is for those who come to faith, how it will be for those in our community and known to each of us… people start out at a distance from God, with little knowledge but something has piqued their interest. Somewhere along their journey they will encounter Christians- us or others, and this encounter will be crucial to them.
Assuming that we don’t react in the way that Herod did when the magi arrived, what other ways might those searching for the son of God be received? They might meet others who are also seeking, but uncertain of what direction to go in… they might meet others who’ve seen the light in the distance but have no interest in finding out more or moving from their accustomed place… they might meet others who’ve already been, like the shepherds who did journey to the stable on the night of Christ’s birth… those who have already worshipped Jesus.
Let me close with this thought- if someone came to us, who had journeyed far to find a promised King who brought peace, following signs, and they met us… what kind of a signpost would our lives and our words be? Would our encounter with Jesus, our relationship with God, our experience of the saviour give them the energy to continue in their journey? Would we be able to help them to find the King of Kings for themselves? Would meeting us help them to meet with him and come to their own epiphany.