by Hector Cumming
Tonight we celebrate epiphany, the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi.
For me, Epiphany, is the day my niece, Jan, was born bringing joy, hope and new life into our small but now growing family.
The question I want you to think about it what does the birth of Jesus mean to you?
T S Eliot, when he became a Christian , wrote the poem ‘journey of the magi’ It recounts a journey made years before by one of the Magi , with allusions to Golgotha and to revelations.
journey of the magi:
A cold coming we had of it,
just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
the ways deep and the weather sharp,
the very dead of winter.
and the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory.
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
the summer palaces on slopes,the terraces,
and the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling and running away and wanting their liquor and women,
and the night fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
and the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
at the end we preferred to travel all night,
sleeping in snatches,
with the voices singing in our ears, saying
that this was all folly.
Then at Dawn we came down to a temperate Valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation,
With a running stream and a Watermill beating the darkness ,
and three trees on the low sky.
and an old white horse galloped away in the Meadow.
then we came to a Tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
and feet kicking the empty wine skins.
but there was no information and so we continued and arrived at evening , not a moment too soon
finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.
all this was a long time ago, I remember,
and I would do it again but set down
this set down
This: were we led all that way for birth or death ? There was a birth certainly ,
we had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death , but had thought they were different ; this birth was hard and bitter agony for us, like death our death.
we returned to our places these kingdoms,
but no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
with an alien people clutching their gods.
What does the birth of Jesus mean to you ?
For Mary the birth of Jesus was complex. A pregnant teenager, likely to be rejected by Joseph by society. Does that sound familiar ? Rejected by parents family or friends ?
After the birth of Jesus would /could Joseph come to love her again or would he remain only dutiful, his eyes filled with pity.
Before the birth Mary had experienced her epiphany, at the Annunciation. Mary had replied to the angel “behold the handmaid of the Lord be it unto me according to Thy word.”
When Mary greeted Elizabeth, Elizabeth exclaimed “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb! why am I so honoured that the mother of my lord should come to me .
The manger became filled with shepherds telling her and joseph how angels had appeared to them in the fields and brought tidings of great joy how they would find the Messiah wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. how the angels sung to them “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace goodwill”
It must have seemed to Mary that the birth of Jesus was momentous for after the shepherds left; the manger filled with servants and then three men wondrously dressed, clearly not Jews, knelt before her and offered Mary, for the Christ child, gifts of gold frankincense and myrrh. The most costly presents of that time. They told her of their journey they had gone to Herod’s palace looking for the one born king of the Jews. How Herod had asked his advisors where such a child would be born and been told “in Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what the prophet has written “but you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah are not least among the rulers of Judah, for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people, Israel. Both the shepherds and the Magi had come to worship the Messiah.
Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.
Herod did not wish to worship the Messiah he wanted to kill him and thereby protect his reign. so out of the hearing of his advisors he asked the Magi to search diligently for the child and report back to him the location of the child. The Magi being warned, in a dream, of Herod’s real intentions did not return to Herod.
Let us journey into 2018 with the Christ child before us and knowing that Journey may not be easy but will always be worthwhile if we keep Christ in our hearts and in our minds.
In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.