Rector's Blog

Epiphany 2

As with gladness men of old 
did the guiding star behold,
as with joy they hailed its light,
leading onward, beaming bright,
so, most gracious Lord, may we
evermore be led by thee.

A reflection on the Feast of Epiphany

Just the words The Magi, the Wise Men, conjour up a vivid image in our minds.   They have been given names and we often see Caspar depicted as a black African, Melchior as being South Asian in appearance and Balthassar looking more European. But these details are not included in the Bible.  We don’t know how many people came from the East.  There might have been three or four or even more.  Their names are a medieval invention which add detail to the story.  Describing them as coming from right across the then known world does though remind us that Jesus did not come just to save the people he lived alongside, people of his own nation and race, but all of humankind. The Magi like us are outsiders – their inclusion in the story tell that all of us claim a place in God’s salvation – this is a story in which we all belong. 

The Magi seemingly set out on a long and perilous journey, simply because they had seen an unusual star in the sky.  They didn’t know where they were going but they set out bringing with them gifts.  To us it’s a very strange thing to do but these visitors are portrayed as astrologers who plotted and understood the world through the night sky. However unlikely it is to us that they would  gaze up and be guided by the heavens God was revealing himself to them a way that they could recognize and understand.  The Jewish people always saw God as communicating through their language, their prophets. But in reaching out to the whole world God speaks to us where we are standing and in a way we can interpret and understand. There are no restrictions on the way God communicates as we often discover in our everyday lives.

The story of the Magi has something particular to tell us in this time of Covid.  It is a reminder that how difficult our life feels God is present in the world.  It is a reminder that we must continue to follow his star.  It tells us that our journeys can always leads to Jesus, even if we feel we do not know where we are going.  In fact, we never know where we are going do we? Again, surely the last couple of years have taught us that.    We can have a big plan in our lives but life doesn’t always turn out how we imagine. But God is present in the world.

The details we recall in the story of the Magi are not all included in St Matthew’s Gospel but the three gifts are – gold, frankincense and myrrh.  We are often told that gold is a symbol that Jesus is king. Frankincense, a symbol that Jesus is the ultimate high priest and myrrh, the ancient spice of wisdom and of death, a symbol that Jesus is the true wisdom. He has come into the world and that through his death, we shall be redeemed. 

What these gifts remind me is that we also have gifts to bring to Jesus.  This is a chance to think about what we have, what we are willing to give and give up for Jesus.  

The Magi’s gifts were expensive – not just the gold but the frankincense and myrrh.  But the wise men gave them freely. At this beginning of a new year is, I think, a good time for me to reassess my priorities.  Am I expecting God to fit in a very limited space in my life – the short time I am willing to put aside for God – or am I willing to follow that star and make God my destination.   

In other words is my gift to God costly or simply the spare change in my pocket?

We all have a gift to bring Jesus, everyone of us. The gifts God gives us are not be stored away but to be used, used in the service of others.  

Our lives are a journey with many turns in the road. Many times we feel as though we are going in the wrong direction. Sometimes even with the best intentions. The Magi clearly thought it was the right thing to go straight to Herod’s palace when they arrived in Israel – and sometimes it’s a hard and painful process deciding which way to go. But if we listen for the presence of God, – if we seek to see the light of the star before us, – if we are willing to use our gifts in the service of others; then we will see the lesson that the story of the Magi teaches us that if we follow the light in our lives, all of our journeys will lead to Jesus 

For we can find in every journey we take, that Christ is present and that we have a gift to bring in that moment.