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Sunday, January 6, 2013
Today’s Reading | 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. (NRSV)
As Epiphany dawns, we welcome in the three kings who of Orient are—and with their arrival, usher out the twelve days of Christmas. Tomorrow the decorations come down. Tomorrow things go back to ordinary time. The season has once again come to an end. Or so it seems.
But our tradition reminds us otherwise. Christmas in the earliest church grew not out of celebrations of the singing angels and the hastening shepherds, the child in the manger and the inn with no room. It began with Epiphany and the visit of those seers from the East. Similarly the earliest depictions of Jesus’ birth are not the stable scenes with swaddled newborn. They are of Mary holding on her lap a child who welcomes and blesses the magi who come bearing gifts fit for a king.
Where we find these images preserved is on sarcophagi from the third and fourth centuries, sarcophagi carved to tell the story of who the deceased person was. There on the panels are the magi, capes flowing, feet striding, approaching the Christ child. The one within, signals that carving, was a seeker of God. The one within believed and rested in the promise of eternal life, a promise given birth in the incarnation of God in the child Jesus, who would die to sin and rise to life everlasting.
Epiphany is likewise the beginning of our journey, our invitation to become not star gazers but God seekers. To follow the One whose ministry we will again see revealed in our texts for the Epiphany season, in his baptism and in the wedding at Cana, in miracles of healing and feeding, in ministry of presence and prayer. We will hear the call. And by our lives all will know our answer—and the One whom we follow.
Guide me, O Star of the East, on life’s way. In new beginnings and in endings, in fresh starts and in carrying on. In the pilgrimage of faith with you, my God and Savior. Amen.
Written by Ann Rehfeldt, Director of Communications
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