Epiphany is the season of revelation. How do we and how can we know anything at all about God except by revelation?
Things are revealed to us progressively in history. The patriarchs and prophets had wisdom and insights into the nature and character of God in former times but the unique decisive and definitive insight into the heart and purposes of God for Christians comes through Jesus Christ.
God is as Christ is.
For Matthew the purpose of re-telling the story of the visit of the Magi is not just to affirm that Jesus is that decisive and unique revelation, but also that this fact is to be revealed to the gentiles also and that the saving Grace of God is for all people and not just the Jews.
The Magi, or wise men, or in some traditions kings came from the East. They weren’t Jews. This is not said in so many words but the fact that they had to ask where the king of the Jews was to be born and they used the term king of the Jews instead of “Messiah” are the tell tale signs.
The three gifts that were brought are all prophetic symbols – further revelations - of what the meaning of Jesus was to be.
Gold for a king. God as revealed in and through Christ was to reign in our hearts and command our loyalty.
Incense for Jesus’ priestly ministry. He was to be the bridge between humanity and the heart of God. He was to open up direct line of communication person to person.
And Myrrh for the sacrificial nature of his death – a ransom for many – a self offering for the sins of the whole world that opened up that access to God.
The mystery of Christ is there revealed to us in those three symbolic gifts.
This is exactly what the first six verses of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians says. He writes about the “mystery made known to me by revelation”
Verses 7 to 9 go on to tell us of Paul’s role in this revelation of the mystery of Christ. His role is to proclaim “the boundless riches of Christ and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who has created all things”
But that work is not Paul’s alone. Paul goes on “so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might be made known”.
We have a role in God’s plan. We are to make the gospel of Christ known.
You will be aware that over Christmas that I invited everyone who attended a service to come to a session that explored Christianity a bit further. This is me trying to take that commission seriously. If you remember I prayed at each service that the Holy Spirit would move in people and that everyone would at some point would experience the presence of God. I hope and pray that people were moved at some point.
Currently a small number have taken up that offer and we thank God for that. As the prophet Zechariah wrote (chapter 4:10) “Do not despise these small beginnings”.
The C of E has been in historic decline for decades and this is felt most acutely in rural areas. Turning this situation around will be slow work like trying to turn around a super tanker. It will take our loyalty, our commitment and our self-sacrifice to take up the challenge
We need to grow and we need to evangelise and we need to take some risks. If you have a friend who you think might benefit please take an invite and give it to them. Accompany them to the evening . If you yourself feel like you’d like your faith refreshed, for a form to explore unresolved issues – sign up yourself.
We are at the beginning of a new year and a new year in the life of this Christian community. Let us resolve to be more outward looking – and armed with the gospel of Christ we can unashamedly step out in faith, nervously perhaps but also full of hope.