In his sermon for Epiphany (06 January 2019), Rev. Geoff McKee looks ahead to the series of sermons forming the season of Epiphany. Look for an online definition of epiphany and you’ll find the narrow definition as “the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (Matthew 2:1–12)” (and that is the Scripture for today) and the wider definition as “a moment of sudden and great revelation or realisation”. Concentrating our attention on the Magi / Wise Men, Geoff considers (1) what do seekers after truth look like? – and (2) what is an appropriate response to the revelation of the light of Christ? Ultimately, it’s about how the lessons of Epiphany challenge narrow assumptions about the reach of the light of Christ.
Matthew 2:1-12 (New International Version)
The Magi Visit the Messiah
2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi 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.’”
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 worshipped 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.
Is the good news of Jesus Christ for people like us?
The right answer to that question is ‘yes’. Of course it is!
But also, the right answer is ‘yes, but…’
If the good news is only for people we feel comfortable with or familiar with, generally, then it’s a very particular ‘good news’, isn’t it?
The lessons of Epiphany challenge narrow assumptions about the reach of the light of Christ.
After all, the star that drew the Magi to Christ, was visible to all who had the inclination to look up and see it. It was not a private viewing for the privileged but a guide to the seeker after truth.
What did Jesus say later in his ministry? ‘Ask, and it shall be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you” (Matthew 7:7).
The season of Epiphany (for its significance is experienced through a series of epiphanies from the visit of the Magi through the baptism of Jesus culminating in the Transfiguration) is in many areas of the world a bigger holiday than Christmas. [Read more…]