Sermon: Epiphany Day, Sunday Jan 5th, 2014
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’[b]”
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
The grace of Christ be with you. Amen
Christmas is over and here we are in another new year. I hope you enjoyed your festivities – although not too much!!
I wonder whether you have ever had an “epiphany” sort of moment. An epiphany moment is one of those “Aa-ha!” type of experiences, when something that has long passed you by comes right to the front of your understanding. All of a sudden the thing that you never got or never knew about comes alive in a new and very personal way.
This happened to me a few years in relation to being a little burnt out with the work of pasturing people. It was not much fun at the time. I was feeling quite overwhelmed by the impossibility of growing the church, evangelising the local neighbourhood and being a “good” pastor, whatever that is!
Through much reflection, support of people and seeking some answers on my part, it finally clicked. Building the church, being a pastor, being a faithful Christian sharing the gospel and making a good difference in the world was not up to me as much as I was believing it to be!
The realisation that God loved me no matter how successful or how dismal I was at doing my vocation really dawned on me anew. It was such a wonderful relief to realise that I was not bullet-proof and did not have to be. It was a great relief to know in my bones that Jesus is the Lord of the church and his church is in his hands. That was just one “epiphany moment” I can recall.
The Epiphany season comes straight after Christmas. It is a season to ponder what God has done in the becoming human and living with us. Today as our new year begins, we here the prophet Isaiah call to us;
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. …. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
“Kings” did come to the light. We now call them the “Three wise men”. Well, the “three wise men” may not have been three. There could have been thirty of them! They were not kings, as we sometimes say, they were magi – professional astrologers or scholars of their day.
But, in the end we can say that that some professional and educated people had an epiphany moment when they saw with their own eyes the young Christ. What was long hidden to them became known. A new light lit up their lives.
The light of Christ shone upon them and their lives were not the same as a result. That’s what an epiphany moment does to you. Things look different after you have finally got something, finally found something.
They found something that altered their year, their view, their present and future. Maybe if we ponder their experience, we may see something new of our faith. Maybe we could start the new year with our own new insight concerning Jesus…
First, – we discover in the story that the wise men were seekers of truth and wisdom.
The magi knew that the star that they followed was no ordinary star. These people had apparently been searching the heavens for years for signs of something unique and significant occurring in their world. So they were open to new wisdom and truth – more than this – they searched for it. They were not simply content to get along with that which they already knew.
The sign for which they searched came. It was a sign from God – or actually, was God himself! This Jesus would later say, “Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you”. He would also say to the world that he is the door, he is the way, he is the life and he is the truth for which we long.
So, friend, are you on the hunt for Christ? Would you describe yourself as a Christian searching for more of Christ, more of faith, more understanding in your life as a disciple of Jesus?
The wise men gained their wisdom because they sought it out. – they were looking for insight.
Second – The Wise men undertook their journey with faith that they would find what the star pointed to.
Faith is a journey; a venturing forth, an adventure. In faith, we risk ourselves in a new activity.
These wise guys did not know where the star would lead them, how long it would take, or what the end result would be for them. They only knew that it was important for them to follow that star to wherever it led. It was a personal quest and the result was an opportunity to worship the one who would be King of kings and Lord of lords.
This could be the heart of the matter for you today. A story of faith with Jesus has to be a personal story, a personal quest. Have you been on the quest lately or has it all gotten rather ho-hum in all the busyness? Would it be a good time to seek wise counsel? Could it be a good time to read a book on things Christian? Could it be time to make time to take stock and begin to pray to the Lord with simple faith – it only takes faith as small as a tiny mustard seed to move a mountain – let alone mumble a few disjointed words.
Third – The wise men sought help from other people as they tried to find the king
When the magi arrived in Jerusalem it seems that they lost sight of the star. They knew they were in the right area, but they were not yet at the right spot. Maybe this is like us sometimes when we go driving in a new city to find a friend. We get into the right suburb – but somehow can’t quite locate the street we are looking for. Our GPS may be outdated or in error, whatever the reason may be, we are stuck and remain stuck until we ask someone else for help.
These travellers asked where the new born king was. Because they ask – they received. Their question is answered by people who are familiar with the scriptures and prophecies concerning the birth of the Messiah – and they take that answer and move on with it – and when they do so, once again they see the star going ahead of them – until it takes them to Jesus.
There are many people who can help us on our journey of faith – if we are wise enough to ask them. The question is: are we willing to ask for help when we need it? We so often try to live our lives without making any demands on others. We try to be independent, to stand alone, o make it by ourselves. Sometimes this comes out of noble motives – we do not want to burden others. Other times it comes out of fear – we are afraid of looking weak or foolish.
Jesus says, “Come to me, you who are weary, and I will give you rest for I am humble and gentle in spirit”.
Fourth – The wise men accepted what God lead them to and believed in it.
In the story of the wise men often much is made of what they gave to the Christ child. But consider what they were given.
They searched for a king – a king of kings in fact. After a long and hard journey they end up at a simple home in Bethlehem – and there they find a carpenter and his wife and child. There are no costly treasures in the house, no purple robes, no gold rings, nothing in fact to show that they are in the presence of person destined to be a great king. Only the star stood overhead to indicate that anything special at all was going on.
And they took this on faith. So many of us have a hard time accepting what God has given in the form that he gives it; A baby in a shed, the truth of God a word, the power of God in a font, the presence of Jesus in bread and wine.
And faith is really what we need today and for this coming year. The light of Jesus is shining on us, calling us. Today is a day to consider receiving that light and being woken up to faith in Christ. Be wise like the wise guys…..
The wisdom of the wise men was and is simply this
they sought wisdom,
they were willing to journey in faith to personally discover what God was doing,
they did they hesitate to ask for help along the way, and finally,
they accepted what they found – even though it was plainly dressed – and believed in it.
May the Spirit give you a seeking heart, a will to journey on and discover new things, a bold spirit to take on what he reveals to you and faith to accept what he offers.
PRAYER: Now may the peace of God which is greater than any of our human understanding keep our hearts and minds safe in Jesus Christ. Amen.