It must have been quite a journey for the Magi. Their journey would have occurred at some great risk. There would have been plenty of danger along the way as they travelled through enemy territory. At first they went the wrong way, landing up in Jerusalem, thinking that a royal birth would take place in a palace. It was there that they encountered Herod and were subjected to his thirst for power which would result (as we know very well from Holy Scripture) in the spilling of innocent blood. And so, changing their route, they then followed the star south to Bethlehem. Arriving at the place where Jesus was born, they did not find a royal child pampered in luxury but rather an ordinary child, born into an ordinary family and yet with such a holy presence they could do no other than bow down, and worship, and present their gifts. What is interesting to note is that for their journey back they did not use the stars or their local knowledge to choose their route but instead relied on a warning they had received in a dream. And this, I believe, shows that the journey made was not just a physical one but also a spiritual one which led them to understand who Jesus is. And having discovered Jesus they also learnt to discern and obey the voice of the Lord calling to them.
Even though very different to the Magi, we have also been on a physical and spiritual journey. Our journey began that first week of Advent and for four weeks we waited with expectant joy and prepared our hearts and minds to celebrate the birth of our Saviour. We filled our places of worship with prayers and joyful singing, and come Christmas, we adored the Christ Child – the Word made Flesh – the Light that has come into the world.
For many people there is the belief that the Season of Christ’s Birth spans from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day and then it is all over! Out with the tree! And proceed to get on with life till next December. I hope you have managed to acknowledge and observe the twelve days of Christmas. That you were able to continue to listen to and sing those beautiful Carols.
The Lectionary readings, set for these past twelve days, are not always comforting and easy to read. But it is in these twelve days of Christmas that we try to see God in the picture of the infant Jesus. We try to hear God through the daily readings of Holy Scripture. We try to feel God in the beauty of Christian worship.
And this journey has brought us to the climax of the Advent and Christmas Season – to the Feast of the Epiphany. The term Epiphany means “to show”, or “to make known” and even “to reveal”. The Magi who brought gifts to the Christ Child were the first Gentiles to acknowledge Jesus as King and so were the first to “show” or “reveal” Jesus to the wider world as the incarnate Christ. This act of worship by the Magi corresponded with Simeon’s blessing that this child Jesus would be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles”. It is one of the first indications that Jesus came for all people, of all nations, of all races and that the work of God in the world would not be limited to just a few.
On this Feast of Epiphany we are called to focus on the mission of the church. We are called to focus on Christian community and fellowship. We are called to reach out to others and to show Jesus as the Saviour of all people.
Through our celebration of Christmas we were called to gather around the manger and to adore the Christ Child – the Light that has come into the world. Now we leave the manger behind and we focus on the Light that has been entrusted to us. This Light that has come into the world through the infant Jesus is now our responsibility to take to all people.
We are reminded at this time of those who are looking for spiritual answers and for those who have never really considered Jesus and our duty to seek out the lost. We are reminded to pray for the Lord to call some to look in our direction and discover more of the Christian faith. We are reminded that it is simply not enough to give people information about the Christian faith but to rather walk alongside them and to share in their lives. We are reminded of our duty to train and disciple those who have come to faith so that they can also walk in the ways of the Lord.
As members of one body – the Body of Christ – we are to reveal this Light to all whom we meet. We are to share this Light in our homes, in the communities where we live, in our places of learning and work.
This may all sound very daunting! We may, at times, feel too small and insignificant to accomplish great things but we draw our encouragement from Isaiah’s words, “Arise, shine, for your Light has come, and the glory of the Lord shines upon you.”
And so, it is with confidence and courage, that we step forward and do whatever the Lord asks of us, knowing that He can and will use even us, as small as we are, for His purposes and His glory.
As you begin a new calendar year, do not make unrealistic and idealistic resolutions but rather make a promise to rededicate your life, your abilities, gifts and talents, your time to God. Rededicate yourself to the service of others.
At the beginning of this new year, may the priestly benediction given to Aaron by God be your blessing also: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”
I wish you all a very happy and blessed 2019.