Sunday, January 8
The Epiphany of the Lord
Matthew 2: 1 – 12
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
in the days of King Herod,
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage.”
When King Herod heard this,
he was greatly troubled,
and all Jerusalem with him.
Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people,
He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea,
for thus it has been written through the prophet:
And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
since from you shall come a ruler,
who is to shepherd my people Israel.”
Then Herod called the magi secretly
and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said,
“Go and search diligently for the child.
When you have found him, bring me word,
that I too may go and do him homage.”
After their audience with the king they set out.
And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them,
until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.
They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
and on entering the house
they saw the child with Mary his mother.
They prostrated themselves and did him homage.
Then they opened their treasures
and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they departed for their country by another way.
Today’s story about the three Magi, following “the star” of the King of the Jews is a very familiar one for all of us. No other Gospel account other than Matthew has this narrative of the Magi visiting Jesus. His narrative underscores that Jesus is the promised Messiah and that this truth was a real threat to the reigning king.
The Epiphany marks the first appearance of Jesus to the Gentiles. It signals that God loves Gentiles as well as Jews and that God’s plan for salvation includes Gentiles too.
Herod, in our story represents the response of the unbeliever to the news of the coming of the Messiah. He is more concerned that the presence of Jesus will interfere with his power, with his position, and with his lifestyle. Our world today is filled with individuals much like Herod who want to know, but are not actually looking for the One who will save people from their sins.
Then there are the Wise Men, the focus of today’s story. They came to Jerusalem by following the light – the Star of Bethlehem that had been above their heads and guiding them to the Messiah. The Magi were some of the first people to worship Jesus as Lord. They prostrated themselves in homage and acceptance of the Messiah.
We can probably see ourselves in each of these individuals in this story. There are times when we perhaps keep ourselves wrapped up in the pleasures and power of sin, not just blinded by darkness but actively seeking it out in order to deny the truth of the Lord and the wages of sin. We in essence become like Herod in denying the wise things of our faith and we plot to maintain our material comforts, rather than open ourselves up to the Lord. But there are those times of grace when we are able to break through from the weight of the world and all of its distractions to see salvation through Jesus, and our redemption from sin. We truly can see the light, rather than hide from it. When we open up our hearts to the Lord, He can put us on the path that leads us not to destruction, but to salvation, away from becoming the Herods of this world and into faith in life everlasting.
Deacon Paul Zemanek