On 6th January we celebrate Epiphany, the visit of the Wise men (kings) to Jesus. The above image is Albrecht Durer’s ‘Adoration of the Magi’.
We are told that the Wise Men who came to Jesus were guided by a star throughout their long journey. Their visit is the moment when the wider Gentile, non-Jewish, world first engages with the story of Christmas. It is the point at which the birth becomes good news for the whole world, Good news to be shared.
We are told that the Wise Men who came to Jesus were guided by a star throughout their long journey. We use maps to guide us – or at least we used to. Many of us now use a TomTom or other kind of satellite navigation to help us find our destination when we are in the car. My wife Jo has a satnav inbuilt into the dashboard of her car. I have a Garmin device which is portable and which was invaluable when we were travelling in our rented motor-home on unfamiliar roads on our sabbatical. If you do not have a satnav, then you will still rely on a map. And maps are still useful to those of us who enjoy walking. You might even follow a guided route for a country walk – either one on paper or one that has signs, way-markers along the route
What matters most is that the guide we use is reliable. … We’ve all heard stories of lorries using satellite navigation getting stuck in country lanes or under bridges. I’ve followed guided walks where either the written description is not good enough, or where someone has maliciously changed the way-marks and I have got lost. … In life just as in driving or walking we need a reliable guide. A guide that we can trust.
We are given guides to follow in our Christian lives. The bibles that many of us own, are perhaps our clearest guide for the journey. Yet many of us choose to keep them in a prominent place, in pristine condition and know little of the contents of the books of the Bible. Some of us are overwhelmed by the amazing, historic, language of the King James’ Bible and celebrate it as a wonderful work of literature. However, this was not God’s intention, when he gave us his Word. The beauty of the language, or the excellence of the binding are not what matters to God.
It is no good having a map, or guide book or satellite navigation system and then putting them in view on the mantelpiece or on the dashboard of the car and never using them, never switching them on. They are only valuable if they are used as they were intended to be.
The Wise Men saw the star and chose to follow it. Otherwise the Star have been useless.
So it is with all that God promises in his Word; we need to grow in faith, and commit ourselves to following God. We need to hear what the bible has to say to us about who we are and how we should relate. We need to make God’s Word and God’s promises our own. When we do so we will find God to be trustworthy – God is there for us when we need him.
Epiphany, speaks of God’s guidance. It is also the moment when the curtain is drawn aside and the whole world looks in on the birth of the Jewish Messiah.
The Epiphany is the point when the Christmas story makes it clear that the Christ-child is not just the Jewish Messiah, but is Saviour of the World. What was once known only to the Holy Family and shepherds at Christmas is made known to a greater and a wider audience. In this season of Epiphany, Jesus is ‘revealed’ as Son of God to the Wise Men who come to worship and give their tribute. Jesus’ Epiphany as Son of God reaches out to the ends of the earth.
So today we celebrate Jesus as our Saviour.
“Come and see,” say the shepherds and the wise men. “Come and follow.” But perhaps most importantly of all; “Go and tell.”
The season of Epiphany is all about mission. It is our season of being sent out, guided by the grace and love of God. This season of the Epiphany gives direction to our lives as God’s missionary people. The scriptures call us on to follow Christ, in the way we choose to relate to each other, in living the lives God calls us to, in witnessing to the love of God which conquers all adversity. Epiphany reminds us that people should be able to see in us the life and love of the Christ-child and it reminds us that if we follow his guidance, live according to his Word, we will become so attractive that we will draw others to faith in Christ.