Fr Darren's Epiphany Sunday Sermon : Matthew 2:1-12
Some things mark your Christmas journey, your Christmas season. Things that you do every year that put you in good stead for what you are going to experience. The putting up of a Christmas tree, making a Christmas cake, or making sure you still have the turkey, and the cat has not eaten it the day before.
Something that marks my Christmas journey is the Christmas edition of the TV Times. I don’t get to look at it a lot before Christmas, but there is nothing better than at about 2pm on Christmas Day afternoon, thinking about what’s on the television as I sit down and relax.
Ben-Hur and Balthasar
I like to look at the big films. I was disappointed this year when I discovered no Sound of Music, no Wizard of Oz. Then I found Ben-Hur, all three hours and fifty minutes of it. So I settled down with that and Christmas refreshments next to me, cake, biscuits, all the things I wouldn’t normally eat!
As I got ready to see the film, I did not expect I would have a spiritual moment. Because let’s face it, I have probably seen it about twenty times since I was a child. But in the film, we see one of the people we are thinking about today, Balthasar, one of the Magi.
Balthasar went up to Ben-Hur and said; ‘I was looking for a young man who must be about your age now. Thirty years ago, I came to see him as a baby, and we offered him gifts’. He talked about what he knew and what he had read in the scriptures and said that he came to find the Christ child at his birth and has come back to see the child grown up.
Returning to the Past
Over the Christmas season, many people came into our church in search of something they were looking for, for their Christmas journey.
I guarantee some of them would have heard the scripture as younger children, perhaps sitting in this church for their nativity service and thinking, I am going back to search for that experience I had as a child.
Perhaps they wanted to be back in church to see if the God they experienced as a child, singing Christmas carols or at the nativity, is still there?
Over Christmas, I was lucky enough to have many conversations about Christmas journeys and faith in our church. I always got the feeling that they had, as a child, been marked out a bit as someone who wanted to search for God, and they were coming back to seek him.
The Epiphany of the Wise Men
Today we remember the Epiphany, the journey of the wise man who knew through scripture and signs in nature that a child was about to be born. A king. And they followed the star, and they came to Jerusalem. There as we know, they spoke to Herod, who was greatly afraid because he was king and a despot and had killed many people.
But all the wise men wanted to do was to fulfil the scripture; they wanted to search out the new-born king. They did not necessarily know he was to be the king of the Jews, but they were searching for a king, and in a stable in Bethlehem, then the child, the king of the world, was revealed to them.
You can imagine how these wise men on their journey would have had conversations about what they might find and what he would be like. None of them thought this child would be born to a carpenter and a young girl and located in a smelly stable in Bethlehem.
That did not stop them; they trusted and went in and found the Christ child, and there the first three gentiles in the world came before Jesus, knelt, and offered him gifts.
Their lives were at a climax at that point because they had come to a fulfilment of what God had said and what they knew through scripture. Through this, Jesus was marked out as someone special, but they did not know quite why.
Marked Out as Someone Different
As Christ grew up, people close to him saw that this child was indeed the son of God. He was marked out not just to be a king but a saviour and someone to redeem the whole world.
Being marked out as someone different is never easy, and we see that in the scriptures when others challenged Jesus. When the authorities came at him, and when eventually he was crucified for who he was.
In the world around us today, people are still marked out as different by the colour of their skin, accent, and sexuality; they are marked out as other, not one of us.
But when we look around the world, especially over the Christmas season, we see Christmas services from Bethlehem and other countries. They all have different colour skins to us and different ways of celebrating the Christian tradition. But, in each and every one of them, Christ was made present. In every one of their acts of worship, God was there. Jesus doesn’t care about what that person looks like, whether wealthy or poor, whether in a stable or a palace; God enters into their acts of worship.
God’s Gifts to Us
At this time of year, we should reflect on the gifts we bring to our Lord. Because if we say we are disciples of Christ and bearers of his spirit, then the gifts we give are things we need to start sharing with others to be properly marked out as God’s disciples.
My old training incumbent used to say, Darren, if you put people on trial for being Christian, there probably would not be enough evidence to convict most of them.
It is true sometimes, but quite often, there are outward signs of someone’s Christianity, like talking to people about Jesus and being active in the community. But being a Christian is more than just actions. It is also about prayer life. It is about getting closer to God. It is about listening. Sometimes it is about pointing out to others their gifts and showing them who God is or what God may be doing through them.
As the wise men brought their gifts to Christ, our challenge is to look at our gifts and consider how we can use them for God’s kingdom. How do we use the things that are precious to us? It might be our time, finances, prayer life, and how we offer these back to God in his service and give thanks for him and for who he is.
It’s easy to journey back to our usual routine, we naturally turn to what’s coming next as our Christmas season ends. But, let’s take some time to think about our gifts, or gifts we don’t know we have that someone might point out to us, and think, Lord can I use this in your service? Will you strengthen me to use these gifts for your service because I am a bit fearful about using them?
Through his Spirit, God will strengthen us to do what he calls us to because the God who calls us is faithful and will equip us for those needs.
Being marked out as one of God’s children is a fantastic gift because He is saying, I love you and want to use you. Each of us has been marked out as unique in God’s eyes, and he wants to use us to build his kingdom.
So let us always view ourselves as marked as his disciples and followers and also let others know who our God is. Amen