Here come the wise men!
In my house, the little figurines have been moving around… They started out on the piano this year, then they moved to the dresser in the hall, and then to the top of the glass cabinet. Finally, yesterday, on the 6th, they came to join the other figures at the manger, and the display is finally complete.
When Epiphany comes, it can give us an ideal opportunity to reflect on Christmas. There are two aspects of Epiphany which suggest further thought. Firstly, because the Magi brought gifts to the child – the Anointed One – we might like to reflect on what we gave to the celebration of his birth. What effort did it cost us? What commitments did we fulfill? What do we offer to Jesus Christ, today? What will we offer in this coming year?
Commitment is a very difficult concept for some people these days. Many people came to our services over the Christmas period – even people who live nearby, but rarely participate. As a parish, we need to think about the reasons we do not see them during the rest of the year; but perhaps it is something within them, and maybe even within ourselves, which deters us from full participation – regular commitment? As a society, it seems to me, we are not as good at joining, committing ourselves, and volunteering as we used to be.
The Magi brought three very symbolic and valuable gifts to the Christ Child. The gold symbolized Kingship, it is said. This child was destined for great things. What is the gold we might offer? It might be something within us that we do not recognize as valuable…
The second gift of the Magi was frankincense. This resin is heated on hot coals until it emits a highly aromatic smoke. The smell of incense is quite beautiful, and has been used since ancient times, to enhance worship, and as a symbol of the prayers of the people, rising to heaven. In aromatherapy, Frankincense is said to alleviate anxiety, and give a sense of calm and inner comfort. It also helps the breathing. Frankincense is always associated with worship, and with holiness. This gift indicated that Jesus was God. Could we give our own holiness to God? Our own sense of awe as we reflect on the love of God, might be worship enough.
The third gift was myrrh. This was a perfume – like frankincense, extracted from resin – which was used in traditional burial rites, along with aloes. Why did the wise men bring myrrh? Traditionally, it was said to predict Jesus’ suffering, and his terrible death. In all the Christmas stories, the whole story is never far away. The humanity of the baby and his vulnerability, reminds us of his eventual death, and just as Christine told us in Advent, the risen Christ always stands behind the Nativity scene – with arms outstretched in blessing and in welcome. What is the sadness and the loss we carry? Can we leave it at the feet of the Christ?
The other aspect of Epiphany which I like to reflect on is what the encounter with Jesus might have given the Magi. They went away changed. We are told in Matthew’s gospel that they were overwhelmed with joy! Is that what they expected, I wonder? In what way has Christmas changed us? I believe that an encounter with Jesus always changes us in some way. Did something touch your heart this year? What will we remember?
I pray, for all of you, that you will reflect deeply, and that the wonderful stories you have heard and seen this year will have changed you in some helpful way.
Remember! The wise ones still seek Jesus! May he bless you homes and hearts this year!