Epiphany Sunday – 2018

Epiph18.   Isaiah 60:1-6.  Isaiah writes here of the return of the Hebrews to Israel.  Isaiah 45:3a writes that God says, “I will give you treasures out of the darkness, and riches that have been hidden away,” probably meaning that King Cyrus, on allowing the Hebrews to go back to Israel, returned to them the treasures taken from the Temple by the Babylonians when the Jews were taken into captivity. The Wikipedia article on ‘Cyrus the Great in the Bible’ states, “Among the classical Jewish sources, besides the Bible, Josephus (1st century AD) mentions that Cyrus freed the Jews from captivity and helped rebuild the temple.  He also wrote to the rulers and governors that they should contribute to the rebuilding of the temple and assisted them in rebuilding the temple.”  I believe that Isaiah was referring to this when he wrote, “the wealth of the nations shall be brought to you.”  By extension we take this to mean that this is a prophetic reference to the gifts of the magi.

Matthew 2:1-12.  “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.’” Even though these magi were what we would call pagans; nonetheless, they were obviously in prayerful union with God so that they could come to know the significance of the star.In the Acts of the Apostles (10:34-35) it says, “Then Peter proceeded to speak and said, ‘In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.  Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.” Prayer or communication with God is not only God listening to us but also us listening to God, i. e. a dialog, not just a monolog.  Not only does he tell us, “Ask and you shall receive,” but also, “have the ears to hear.”  The problem, of course, is that religion is primarily a faith and not a science.  Our God is invisible to our eyes and inaudible to our ears.  So there is the need for a spirit  ofdiscernment that what comes to us is truly from God.  We have the sacraments, sacred and religious buildings and literature and good people in our lives through whom the Lord often enough speaks to us.  1 John 4:1 reads: “Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”  However, only if we grow daily in giving our hearts and minds to the Lord through God the Holy Spirit, will we truly have the internal and external voices to speak to the Lord and the external and internal capacity to perceive the Lord speaking to us.

The devil communicates also.  Herod who so connived in his attempt to murder the child Jesus through his perceived gullibility of the magi and later through “the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under” (Matthew 2:16) seemed to be in close contact with the devil.  In these Scripture verses concerning the magi there is a stark contrast between the magi who lived in the light of Lord and Herod who dwelled in the darkness of the devil.  Psalm 72:10-11 reads: The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts; the kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute.  All Kings shall pay him homage, all nations shall serve him.”  This psalm speaks of the qualities of the promised Messiah.  The magi help to fulfill the prophecies of Psalm 72.  They offer the best they have and so should we.

Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6.  “You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for your benefit, namely that the mystery was made known to me by revelation.”  “It has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus though the gospel.”  The magi represent the acceptance by the non-Jews who choose to be believers in the Christ as the Father’s Son and Redeemer.  We receive all that Christ came to give.  We are the adopted children of God the Father through the work of his Son.  In our own individual humble way may the love of Christ which the Spirit imbues in us reveal the glory of the tiny babe!