At New Year we are confronted with the truth about ourselves. After the Christmas festivities it is back to normal – back to work, back to school. When we look in our mirrors on these cold grey mornings we may not like what we see. We too look grey with extra pounds all to visible. Confronted with the truth we take stock & resolve – for a short time at least. We also become concerned about the future – what will a new year bring? Searching for the truth about human beings, about our present and our future, is popular at this time of year. People are less likely to search for this in orthodox religion, hence the growth of all kinds of strange beliefs and superstitions, sitting uncomfortably with scientific knowledge.
Also at the start of New Year comes the Feast of the Epiphany with its Gospel story of the Wisemen, the feast we celebrate today. Their strange story, without parallel in the New Testament connects in many ways with our contemporary New Year anxieties and searching after truth.
Properly Epiphany celebrates God in Christ in our midst. The truth has been revealed to us in the coming of Christ. It is there to be perceived. Our Prayer Book makes this clear by describing Epiphany, as the manifestation of Our Lord to the Gentiles. If the truth is revealed to us there is still a process involved in its reception. We see it in the story of the Wisemen – God in man was made manifest to them. Once again we can look more closely at the familiar story to discover its New Year message for us.
- The importance of searching for the truth. The Wisemen probably came from Persia – they were Zoroastrian by faith. They spent a lifetime searching for the truth about existence, asking the difficult ‘God’ questions. A proper curiosity about such matters can be the seedbed of faith. It is sad if people fail to give it time.
- They were willing to travel. They saw the star and they followed. They were prepared to go on a long arduous journey, a pilgrimage, in their pursuit of the truth. Their journey can stand as a metaphor for the Christian pilgrimage of faith – a spiritual journey in the company of Jesus. As Newman described Christianity is always about development. Our Baptism, conversion is a beginning not an end.
- They were not afraid of confronting the secular power. Herod was a ruthless tyrant and yet the Wiseman went straight to Jerusalem to ask, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?’ They went along with him as far as it suited their purposes, but also avoided him when they perceived the dangerous nature of his interest in the child. Thus Christians will have an uneasy relationship with the powers of this world, being neither conformist nor revolutionary.
- They were prepared to go to an unlikely place. A stable in Bethlehem despite the prophecy of a birth in Bethlehem was not the most obvious place to find a king. Yet the Wiseman went there. To be people of faith is to be open to the ridicule and incredulity of others.
- They worshipped. The Wisemen were overwhelmed with joy when the star stopped. Their response was to pay homage, to worship him. This gives us a good definition of worship, our response to being overwhelmed by God. Many people claim to have no religion, not to worship anything. For the first time, in history generations are growing up who practice no faith. This is disturbing. In reality people do worship something. If it is not God then it will be money or power or evil.
- The Wisemen gave of their treasure. Their gifts show us who Jesus is.
- Gold is for a King. The Crucified, Risen, Ascended, Jesus is Lord and King over all creation. Now he is seen in a cattle-feeding trough.
- Frankincense reveals that Christ is to be worshipped as the Son of God. Like incense rising our prayers ascend to heaven. We too worship the babe in a stable, God almighty.
- Myrrh shows how Christ will die. It was used to anoint bodies for burial.
- TS Eliot’s lines capture this.
‘…Were we led all that way for birth or death? … I had seen birth and death, But had thought they were different; this Birth was Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.’
To follow Christ is to die to self that we might live to him.
- They were adaptable. The Wisemen travelled home by another road. Their very lives depended on it. The mission of the Church requires us to adapt and change if the Gospel is to prosper.
The Wisemen give us valuable clues as to how to live the Christian life. Like them we will be willing to search for the truth and travel to find it. Like them we will be critical of temporal power and unafraid of ridicule. We will be people who respond to God’s gifts in worship and by giving from our treasures. We will open to change as the way to life. At the start of a New Year the Epiphany Story of the Wisemen helps us in our search for truth. Through it we can others can reconnect to God in our midst, God in man, made manifest.
Return to homepage
Comments about this site or problems? Contact Webmaster (Colin Richards) at firstname.lastname@example.org Last updated 06/01/06 09:30 Author: David Shepherd