This Weekend is Saturday 6 and Sunday the 7 January, The Feast of The Epiphany of the Lord.

The University of Johannesburg choir sing a setting of Psalm 42: As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.

 This weekend is a great feast for both the Latin Church and the Eastern Churches. “Epiphany” is a Greek word and it indicates a ‘showing’, a manifestation – usually of Divine Glory, what we might today call a ‘Revelation’. That is the great movement of this Christmas season as it reshapes and reforms our lives and it opens us not only to the ‘epiphany’ of Christ but to the ‘epiphany’ of humanity in Christ – a new way of being and acting, of living and loving and hoping. 

All of this is contained in the feast we celebrate today, but it is given to us in a picture told with colour and economy by Matthew. Like every picture we need to gaze at it for a long time until we begin to really see it. So, let us spend a few moments looking and trying to understand the symbols – the codes which the Gospel has placed within the story to point us towards the truth of which it speaks.

We are introduced first to these strangers the Magi. They are the masters of an ancient wisdom, a science that is not part of the revelation that Israel alone possesses and yet points to it. They are the seekers and they have the courage to trust their wisdom and follow where it leads. Here, too, there is humility because they know that for all their skill in searching the knowledge of the skies, that knowledge is incomplete. It remains a riddle and a hope that cannot find fulfilment until it comes to the scriptures where in is found the revelation that God gives of himself to his people. Unless it leads to this, it remains a futile search and a sterile wisdom which cannot answer the deeper longings of the questing spirit. What deep longings does the coming of Jesus Christ fulfil for you?

Then there is Herod whom we know of from other sources outside of scripture. We know that he is a cunning political operator who is finely attuned to the lines of power in his world. When we dust away the layers of sentiment that have built up over the ages, we find in the Gospel a stark, austere realism about the world into which this child is born. It is a world of ruthless power and political treachery; it is world in which the poor have no voice and no history. It is a world of calculated violence; it is our world. What feelings stir in you as you contemplate this..?

In Matthew as Luke, the infancy narratives with a gentle and quiet confidence show the unfolding of God’s plan within the tragic and grotesque history that we make for ourselves. 

It is a new history that is being written by the Spirit in which the poor have a voice – it is their history – and it is the history of God’s freedom which cannot be imprisoned with the iron cage of empty human plans for power.  Is this something you can do this year? Let God’s plan for you unfold without letting yourself interfere?

The gifts of the Magi are prophetic gifts. They are not only rooted in the ancient visions but they also look forward to the journey that the newly born Christ-child must make in order to heal the broken nations of the world. Gold for his Kingship which is not dependent on any worldly power or politics but upon the sovereignty of God; frankincense for the worship that is his due as Son of God and myrrh as the mark of his suffering through which he will heal our humanity. 

The Magi ‘went back another way.’  So we are sent back into our world by another way. The way that He has already travelled for us; the way on which we find him walking with us, the way that leads us rejoicing to the Father. 

Let us pray that this year, 2018, will brings us closer to him and that is our delight and our goal. Let us pray that he who has come to us in his poverty might find us with the Magi on our journey to adore him.  

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.