Sunday, 6 January 2013

6th January 2013 - Epiphany Day

The feast of Epiphany celebrates the story told in St Matthew's Gospel of oriental Magii, not kings but royal astrologers travelling great distances from a place far to the east of Palestine, possibly Persia in their effort to decode the meaning of a new star which they have observed rising in the heavens. 

They visit Herod's court and give the tyrant's own astrologers and scribes a research task to undertake before advising them to look for something significant in Bethlehem, which the prophet Micah has suggested might be a place for someone of great importance to be born. 

Until this moment they are surprisingly unaware or even unconcerned about the new star to which their attention has been attracted. Perhaps it was not in their interests to raise issues with their despotic paymaster which might have given rise to alarm. 

When Herod did realise something different was happening, "... he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him." The subjects of a tyrant are the first to suffer from their master's anxieties, and on this occasion, consequences are brutal and terrifying, with the murder of innocent children following.

They had arrived at the court of Herod and being wise, they soon got the measure of a political situation about which they could have known little in advance of their long journey. They left no gifts, attempted to forge no diplomatic relationship with people in power. To return home, they went by a route avoiding Jerusalem, and further contact with Herod, his advisers and his troops.

For the Magii, their mission is accomplished when they find Mary, Joseph and the new born Jesus, now to be found in a house, rather than a stable. Nobody knows how many of them came, but three gifts were offered in homage, representing all the cultural and spiritual wealth they possessed. They are welcomed and their gifts received with humble wonder.

The story represents the recognition of the wider world beyond Palestine that something of cosmic significance happened with the birth of Jesus, something which will over time lead people of every 'tribe tongue people and nation' to turn to him and pay him homage because of the reign of divine love, truth and goodness which he comes to bring for the sake of all humankind. The coming of the Magii marks beginning of the world turning to God through Jesus, and the end of the beginning of of His Advent.

To the immortal, invisible, only wise God be blessing and honour and glory and might for ever and ever, Amen

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