Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Can't make it to church - Sunday 6 January 2018

It’s Epiphany and the Magi, those wise men from the East, arrive at Bethlehem almost a couple after years Jesus’ birth.

The Isaiah passage, the audience having returned from captivity in Babylonian captivity to a broken and battered Jerusalem. There’s division, conflict and all in all, it’s a pretty gloomy place to be and then those words “Arise, shine, for your light has come,” are heard, and bot do they hit the spot!

Among all the promises ‘kings arriving’ and ‘returning exiles’ all that stuff we find the promise of some coming from Sheba with gold and incense - we celebrate those same gifts being brought as the light of the world is made know to the Gentile world.

This joyful prophecy of something to shout about; something that will make known, and bring praise to the LORD is cause for hope and celebration. Arise, shine, for truly the light has come (and the darkness will not overcome It!). A proclamation of a revelation that will draw many to Jesus, the Christ, which is taken up and expanded upon by the Apostle Paul.

As we celebrate some ‘wise’ men having the Christ revealed to them, Paul calls us to ponder on God made man and the message of reconciliation to the Godhead made real for Jew and Gentile in Him. This revelation unites, proclaims and enables, thanks to the efforts of the third member of the Trinity – future, present, and past collide to find their fulfilment – the call to ‘rise and shine’ are ours. We, who were far off have come into God’s presence through the knowledge that the God, made man, has redeemed us and (like those returning from captivity) will also bring us home at His second coming.
Just as those in Jerusalem listened to Isaiah’s words and longed for one people to come together from afar and near and be united, so too we live in the reality, and that same hope, and we celebrate that the light has come, and will overcome all things that disappoint and weaken us.

And as we celebrate the Christ being made known to those far off Gentiles, we celebrate that same truth in our own hearts and lives – with what gifts though?

Our gold? (the Church treasurer would no doubt like that)

Our recognition that in Jesus we have a great and efficacious high priest? (I'd like that)

The realisation that we have before us a great high priest who presents a ‘once and for all time’ sacrifice that brings freedom and adopts us as heirs to the kingdom of God, forever? (

As our worship of God rises before Him, let’s move over as some geezers on camel come over the hill. Looks like there’s some even more far off people arriving to worship Jesus and these visitors, having found Jesus, worship the salvation of the world made known to the non-Jewish world. Although ‘far off’ spiritually and geographically, they come and seek; and having found they worship the Christ. But as the worship and gifts proclaim something wonderful, then as now there are some who for their own self-seeking, self-servicing realities, look to oppose and destroy the one who brings love, peace and unity.

And no wonder all of Jerusalem was ‘disturbed’ at Herod’s reaction for it caused a man who had put his own children to death to secure and preserve his power to put to death the boy children aged two and under (the holy innocents) to try and do the same with Jesus. The babe of Bethlehem, who is the light that was promised in our first reading, is the focus of more than the Magi, for he is the sign that casts fear into the hearts of the self-serving and wicked.

He, Jesus, is that light which, having risen in the hearts and minds of these men from the East, fulfils so many prophecies and makes real the hope of many who have found themselves in darkness.

Today, in the troubles and situations which seem so dark, won’t you bring your gifts of love and homages to Jesus?

Not in gold but in a life laid before Him?

Not in hollow, ephemeral worship, but in something consistent and continuing; lives committed to show that same love and service that brings Jesus to serve all humanity.

Not in rigid and self-serving religion, but in a relationship with the Godhead made ours through the cross of The Christ.

Will we today, recognising and worshipping Jesus and realising that the wood of the manger is destined to find fulfilment in the wood of the cross, rise up and follow Him?

The Collect
O God, who by the leading of a star manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: mercifully grant that we, who know you now by faith, may at last behold your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Isaiah 60:1-9
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

“Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar, and your daughters are carried on the hip. Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come. Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the Lord. All Kedar’s flocks will be gathered to you, the rams of Nebaioth will serve you; they will be accepted as offerings on my altar, and I will adorn my glorious temple.

“Who are these that fly along like clouds, like doves to their nests? Surely the islands look to me; in the lead are the ships of Tarshish,[a] bringing your children from afar, with their silver and gold, to the honour of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendour.

Ephesians 3:1-12
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles -  Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

Matthew 2:1-12
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Post Communion Prayer
Lord God, the bright splendour whom the nations seek:
may we who with the wise men have been drawn by your light discern the glory of your presence in your Son, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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