Lord Jesus Christ,
A little child
Help me to see you
To welcome you
To know you.
Epiphany of the Lord
Matthew’s gospel traces the path of Epiphany – that journey into
into recognition of God showing up among us in Jesus. The path we tread toward knowing is intertwined with the ways of our heart, where longing for God is overlaid with shadows of fear, dungeons of distance, and rejection. And so the epiphany narrative is a night journey – but we are led by a star.
Fear has two faces: a seeking for God who is beyond us, a yearning burnished with awe
and wonder, open to change;
a self-seeking, which hides from God, keeps a tight grasp on safety,
power, control; a resistance to change.
In the Epiphany narrative we discover both faces. Both are faces of desire: God-given desire at creation, and dis-ordered desire this side of Eden. We carry both within us.
The wise men – those star-gazers from the far East – see past the birthing of a great star in the heavens, to a birthing of a king. Hence their journey from the region around Tarshish and Sheba to Jerusalem, and their question, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at is rising, and have come to ay him homage.” This is no politically contrived visit. They desire to worship; they come bearing gifts in recognition of who this little child is, and is to become.
Who else would they ask, but the king of the Jews, Herod? Surely he would know.
But when these wise men speak the reason for their 800 mile journey, what had prompted them to go on such a venture, King Herod becomes frightened. And if he becomes moved by fear, all of Jerusalem has reason to fear. He is cruel, and rules with the fist of deadly force.
Herod too asks the question: “Where is the Messiah to be born?” The chief priests and scribes know the scriptures, and explain, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rules of Judah’
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
Now the face of fear which is self-seeking, hiding from God, keeping a tight grasp on control, spins a secret plan. Herod sends the wise men, saying: “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”
Quite suddenly the star re-appears, moving on ahead of them, stopping only at the place where the child is. These ancient star-gazers also stand still, overwhelmed with joy and wonder. Here, after months of trecking desert paths, seeking, following, longing, here they are!
‘On entering the house, they see the child
with Mary his mother,
and they kneel down
and pay him homage.’
In humility and wonder they kneel and worship. Then, offer him gifts:
But behind the faces of desire born of God, and fear which is self-seeking and grasping for power and control, is God the Creator, the One who sends his Son Jesus to be God with us. And so now God gives these worshipers guidance in a dream, not to return to Herod. In simple obedience, they leave for their own country by another road – avoiding the main road through Jerusalem.
Prayer before reading:
Fear drives me
More than I know
As I seek
In your presence
Like that early star
Guide the feet of my soul
Into being here
Epiphany of our Lord
12/31 Monday: Matthew 1:1-8
1/1 Tuesday: Matthew 1:9-12
1/2 Wednesday: Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
1/3 Thursday: Isaiah 60:1-6
1/4 Friday: Ephesians 3:1-12
1/5 Saturday: Matthew 2:1-8
1/6 Sunday: Matthew 1:9-12