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Who are the people in our Epiphany story?

January 5, 2014

Matthew 2:1-12
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “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 rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.'”
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, 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.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

In our reading from the Gospel according to Matthew, who are the major players? Let’s see, we have the Wise ones from the East, King Herod, the Chief Priests and Scribes, Mary and Jesus, and the audience (us).
The Magi were studying this celestial phenomena. They followed the star, yet were not a part of the House of Israel. However they we seeking something out side their comfort zone. They traveled far seeking… seeking something that changed the landscape of the cosmos. Something that made the heavens rejoice by creating a “New Star.” They brought the “New King” gifts to celebrate his reign. Since they we not in their native land they stopped to ask the current King where his tradition said the “New King” was to be born.
This brings us to the next character in our lesson, Herod. Herod must have thought that he was the messiah for the people of Israel. He keep the people in their place to keep the peace. Herod did not even know the tradition as to where the Prophet said the Messiah was to be born, so he had to check with the Chief Priest and Scribes to acquire the location of the birth. This birth of the “New King” scared Herod and threatened the control he had acquired by the Roman government. Loosing his status was at the heart of his fear.
The priest and scribes were not paying attention to the Celestial goings on in the cosmos. They seemed to be content with the place they were in pecking order of things and they knew the words of the prophet, yet life was good and they didn’t want change either. They we in charge of the temple and wanted for nothing.
Then the Magi sought out the little king. They went to Bethlehem. They found the home of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. When they found the home,they entered a new King’s home, the Magi’s lives would be changed. Mary and Joseph’s lives were changed. The entire world would be changed. The gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh were presented to Mary and Joseph on behalf of the new king. These tributes to the new king are important to remember. Gold was offered. Gold was and is power. It establishes power, because if one has no gold they have no power. Frankincense was used to anoint a person into the role as king. Frankincense with it’s powerful aroma allows the senses to be involved with the process establishing the new reign of the new king. Myrrh is the harder gift to accept. It was used to prepare the body for death. I do not believe the magi nor Mary and Joseph knew the pain and suffer the young king would encounter later in his life, even though my favorite Epiphany hymn alludes to that pain. The hymn was written well after the visit of the Magi to Mary and Joseph’s home.
Now let’s see. We have had Herod, the Chief Priests, the Scribes, The Magi, Mary and Joseph, and… who have I left out? Oh yeah the Audience both at the first hearing of this lesson and as well as us today. We, as children of the God of all things, have choices to make. Who are we really going to be like? The Magi, who sought out this new king. They did not know anything prior to their quest that the heavens had brought forth a new light into the celestial body. They traveled to a land that they did not know, but the Magi humbled themselves at the feet of the new king. A child that would change the face of the world. That journey took courage and they lived up to the task. Herod, who was frightened. What was he afraid of? He feared that he would loose his status and power with this “new king.” So Herod gathered the Chief Priest and scribes around himself to find where the prophet said this king would be born. Herod’s attempt to disrupt history by asking the Magi to report back to where they found the new king so that he could honor his also was grasping at straws to regain control of the situation. A situation that was beyond his control. The Chief Priest and scribes knew what the prophet had said yet were so very happy with the way things were that they had missed that the heavens were bursting forth with new light and life. This blindness to the things going on around them was not the last time these officials of the temple would not be paying attention to the things around them.
We might ask what does any of this have to do with us the readers and hearers of the Gospel then and now? EVERYTHING. We have to model out live in such a way that we can see Jesus in everything and everywhere.
The Magi took chances. Herod in his fear call for the children under the age three to be slaughtered. The Temple authorities ignored the signs all around them. Mary and Joseph were in awe. We as followers of Christ Jesus have simple yet hard choices to make in our journey. Our journey may cause us to be afraid, yet through the example of Mary, Joseph and the Magi, we can become more in tune to our surroundings and be in awe of the miracles all around us. Our actions in this season of new light, may bring us to the state of perfection that God gives to us. We must receive the gift of our king and share it with all creation.
The new king, Jesus as we know, leveled the boundaries that keep us apart. This is still a hard concept then and it is still hard concept today. As each of our journeys have played out during our lives we probably identify with each of the characters in this story. We have hopefully spent the majority of our time as the Magi seeking the new light or as Mary and Joseph in awe of the things unfolding before us. The world we live in needs us to seek out those that need to know the light and stand with them in the awe of revelation of the Light of our king. May we help other to see the light we have received so many years ago.
LET US PRAY.
Gracious God guide our journeys that we can become seekers of your Christ as the Wise men from the East. May we search for the the light of the world with the awe of Mary and Joseph, so that we can by the power of the Holy Spirit show your grace and love to everyone we meet. We ask this in your most blessed Name. Amen.

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From → jimmyahornjr

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