Epiphany of the Lord: God shows up among us
Season of Epiphany: Baptism of Jesus
In this season of Epiphany—the time of God showing up among us—the lectionary guide leads us into the narrative in Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 2:1-12. We find ourselves led to a far-away place, in the east, where wise men–magi–who gaze at the stars and study their movement, become aware of a new and bright star arising in the heavens. They discern that this star signals the birth of “the child who has been born king of the Jews”. Their discovery erupts into a deep desire to see this child, to worship him, and to offer him gifts worthy of a king: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. This deep desire means charting a way to travel, and along with the things they pack they also carry a question: How would they find this child who has been born king?
They follow the starry sign given in the night sky—this heavenly GPS– as it offers direction west for hundreds of miles, to Israel/Palestine.
I remember as a teenager feeling a longing to meet God, to know God. The longing drew me to listen deeply to lessons taught in a weekly Bible class, and made me aware of the deeper conversation God was having with me. Like the magi I needed guidance from the scriptures and welcomed direction as to where to read in the gospels. Guidance from helpful teachers and the scriptures shed light on my path as I searched. Many people long for God, to know and to be known by God; to come home to God. Often the desire is buried underneath a pile of activity and things which we hold on to, somehow thinking that they will satisfy the longing of our soul. But of course, they don’t. The star of God’s making still draws us in the night of our searching.
For the magi it is the pronouncement from the prophet Micah which gives them direction for their journey:
“But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.” (Micah 5:2)
This one, born to be king, signals the shining of the light of God, light that beams into every dark corner of the nation, and of the human heart. (Isaiah 60:1-6) Now the magi know where to go: to Bethlehem, to find the child. Overwhelmed with joy and wonder the magi enter the dwelling and kneel before the child Jesus to give him homage, and to offer him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
However, warned in a dream of Herod’s secret plan to kill this newborn baby, they return home to the east another way.
Like the magi I was overwhelmed with joy and wonder at the in-breaking of this love and grace in my life and, like them, I began to take another road, a road leading home for my life and soul. This encounter with Jesus began to change my life.
Matthew’s gospel leads us into the wilderness now, and prepares us to listen for this new road. A voice sounds in the silence, the voice of John, son of Zechariah and Elizabeth. He now lives in this barren wilderness, owning the call of God on his life spoken by his father at his birth:
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High:
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.” Luke 1:76-77
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Zechariah had also spoken of the new day that was about to dawn with the coming of Jesus:
“By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:78-79
As we follow John, he leads us the banks of the River Jordan, the river which threads its way south from the high mountain ranges north of Galilee to the Dead Sea south of Jerusalem. When Jesus arrives at the River Jordan, Matthew invites us to sit on the river bank and to notice how he comes, receiving from John, receiving from God: Abba and Holy Spirit. John is surprised, but moves with the invitation of Jesus. Jesus himself, led by the Spirit, moves with Abba’s way of bringing the gracious Rule of God near. This is the road for us to walk.
Enter into this baptismal narrative. Sit on the bank. Watch. Listen. Notice what draws your attention, how the Spirit of God speaks to you.
Prayer before reading:
Lord Jesus Christ,
You come to us.
Help me to see as you see,
To recognize your presence,
To receive the gift of your Spirit
Who guides us as we walk in your way.
Read slowly. Listen deeply. Indwell the scripture.
Season of Epiphany: First Sunday after Epiphany
- 1/3 Monday: Matthew 2:1-12
- 1/4 Tuesday: Matthew 3:13-17
- 1/5 Wednesday: Psalm 29; 72:1-7,10-14
- 1/6 Thursday, Epiphany: Isaiah 42:1-19; 60:1-6
- 1/7 Friday: Ephesians 3:1-12; Acts 10:34-43
- 1/8 Saturday: Matthew 2:1-12
- 1/9 Sunday: Matthew 3:13-17