Sunday 06 January 2013

Bible Book:

"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." (vv. 10-12)

Matthew 2:1-12 Sunday 6 January 2013


Today we celebrate the Feast of Epiphany. The name comes from aGreek word, meaning 'appearance' and used especially of a gloriousappearance of the gods, arriving to rescue humans. In Matthew'sGospel there are no shepherds, and it is significant that Jesus'first appearance is to Gentiles (non-Jews), and far eastern pagansat that. Matthew makes a statement from the beginning of his Gospel- the good news embodied in Jesus Christ is for all peoples of allnations.

We are used to the three kings of the nativity plays, with papercrowns and old curtains for cloaks. The reality might strike us asa little sinister. Magi was the name given by Babylonians, Medesand Persians to priests or magicians, astrologers, soothsayers,sorcerers, interpreters of dreams; people engaged in grappling withlife's mysteries and seeking ultimate truth. Many of these methodsare still used today to engage with spirituality and to seek thetruth, and Christians tend to regard them with suspicion. Yet theopenness to truth, however surprising, of these three magicians ledthem to the Christ. Indeed, they were the first people to worshiphim, discerning the presence of God in a tiny Jewish baby.

Matthew contrasts these pagan astrologers, using the outlandishmethod of following a star to the truth, with the faithful Jewishking and his chief priests and scribes, who piously search theScriptures. Yet the king is frightened by the truth, rather thanattracted to it. King Herod was a puppet king of the Romans, whocould be removed at any moment on a whim of the Roman governor. Hisposition was precarious even without a pretender to the throne, sothe Magi must surely have seen through his flimsy pretence ofenthusiasm for the baby king. Later in the chapter Herod willattempt to extinguish the truth by trying to kill the infant Jesus(Matthew 2:16-18).

For Matthew the method of arriving at the truth is notimportant. What matters is our response to the truth. Do we allowit to disturb us and change us, or do we seek to extinguish it tomaintain our comfort?

To Ponder

  • How do you feel about 'alternative' methods of seeking thetruth?
  • Have you ever found yourself tempted to maintain your comfortrather than allow yourself to be disturbed by the truth? What werethe fruits of allowing yourself to be disturbed?
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