Rector's Blog


The day which we here in the Church in Wales celebrate as the Feast of the Epiphany is in some countries the day that Christmas is celebrated because this is the time that we remember that the coming of the Messiah, the birth of Jesus, is not just something for the Jewish people but for all of humanity.  We are told the Magi, the wise men, came from the east and made a long journey following a star until they reached the place Jesus was born and they presented him with gifts.  There are a lot of details which have grown up around the story of the Magi which do not appear in St Matthew’s Gospel.  We usually see three figures depicted – but St Matthew doesn’t tell us how many there were only that they brought three gifts.  The names we have given them – Balthazar, Melchior and Caspar, so familiar from the solo parts of the carol “We Three Kings” don’t appear in the Bible either. And of course they are not described as kings at all in the Gospel story. We read that they came from the east which might mean they came from Babylonia, or Persia, where the word magi originated. 

What is clear is that these travellers felt compelled to follow this star.  They didn’t know their final destination.  They travelled outside their own country and presumably way out of their comfort zones. Perhaps understandably, the first person they sought out was King Herod, a person of power, someone who surely knew what was going on. When it became apparent that this was not the case  they continued to follow the star until it stopped over the place where Jesus had been born. 

The story has a lot to tell us in our lives which we often see as a journey.  I recently heard the Christian journey described as an “off road excursion”.  Life doesn’t turn out how we expect and trying to plan can sometimes end up being futile (2020 has  shown us that!) but looking back our lives often make more sense in retrospect when we can see where God has guided us and the times we were following our own particular stars and the times we made a wrong turning. I am often struck how in life we often turn to “King Herods” we think power, wealth, success or possessions are what matters in life and forget that Jesus was born in an outhouse and that his family were ordinary people, certainly not from the ruling classes.  If we do describe Jesus as a king, and we often do, we are talking about a very different kind of ruler to the despotic leaders of the world.

We hear in the Gospel that the Magi were warned in a dream not to return to King Herod but to find another way home.  Like the Wise Men this might be a good time, at the start of a New Year when we are making resolutions, to plot a better route for our own lives and look afresh and how we are following Jesus.

The three gifts that the Wise Men brought to Jesus – gold, frankincense and myrrh have been the subject of endless discussion down the centuries about what they symbolised.  But this is also a good time to reconsider our own gifts and what we bring to Jesus.

Perhaps that’s never been summed up better though that in the last verse of the poem by Christina Rosetti which is familiar to most of us as the carol In the Bleak Midwinter. Rev’d Andrea Jones 28 December 2020