“They travelled there… were overwhelmed with joy… paid him homage…offered him gifts… and left by another road.”
Yesterday was the Day of Epiphany – and tomorrow is the Epiphany pageant so tonite we get to hear the rest of the story. For those of us who follow the liturgical calendar, Christmas doesn’t end December 26th - we get an extended time to enjoy the season, even though the secular world has moved onto St Valentine’s Day. It doesn’t end for us until the wise men from the east come to visit the Christ child. We only get this story in the Gospel according to Matthew. Luke gave us the story of the shepherds, and Matthew gives us the wise men.
As I studied this scripture passage this week, I kept coming back to the thought: what does this have to do with us? It’s a great story – and we’ve added images thru the years that give it depth and majesty. My crèche at home has three royally dressed men wearing crowns bearing ornate boxes and there’s a camel draped in finery looking on. So it is a fun story – and fun to watch young ones re-tell – but is that it? Is that all we get from it?
While there is great merit in telling the stories, I believe that there is more to what Matthew offers. Beyond being part of our faith tradition, this scripture offers us a way to liturgically enter into where secular time seems to naturally go right now. We’ve just celebrated the secular new year – last weekend in fact. The new year seems to invite us all to re-evaluate where we are in our lives and where we are going in the next year. It’s a time to get ourselves, our finances, our bodies, our households, our families in order. I do not like making resolutions, but a lot of people take the chance to resolve to do something differently this year. This is the time of year for such reflection. Epiphany begins our last season before Lent – maybe the arrival of the wise men amongst us, invites us to start considering where we are in our own journeys toward Christ. Maybe we also get an extended season to consider where we would like to make changes come Lent. How else can we enter into this story?
They travelled… How did you get here? Not here at St Martin – that’s too easy. How did you get to here, today? Reflect on the story a Gospeller would tell about your journey. What brought you into this space? Maybe it was a friend, a co-worker, a family member – a ministry of the church. They travelled with friends, just as we do.
When were you so overwhelmed with joy, that you knelt and paid homage to Christ as the lord and savior of your life? For most people it might have been very quietly done at the birth of a child, in the midst of an illness, in that peace which passes all understanding. Some here may have had a very sudden life-changing experience. The thing to note is that we have all had at least one, or we wouldn’t be here!
What gifts have you offered up in the past? And what gifts has God given you since that you look forward to bringing forward in this new year? We all have cycles of offering gifts, then resting for a bit while we foster new gifts, then offer those up – it’s a cycle that continues throughout our lifetimes – the gift the children will offer at the pageant will be different than the gift the Altar Guild or the Choir performs every week. What gifts of time or talent or treasure did you bring along tonight?
And they left by another road… they did that to avoid reporting back to Herod – they sensed his hypocrisy. But I also wonder about the metaphorical value of that. They had met the savior of the world – the one whom we still kneel down and worship 2000 years later. They had to have been changed by the journey – changed by the story – changed in the meeting of Jesus face to face.
After all, we have all come, we will kneel, we will offer valuable gifts of our time, treasure and harvest, we do this over and over and over – week in and week out – in each season, liturgical and secular. I pray that we will each go from here differently AND WISER than we came. AMEN.