Epiphany

Fr Paul’s sermon notes.

Take leaf out of Toby & Linda’s Quiz- how many kings does St Matthew mention in his gospel? One, King Herod. He mentions Wise Men, without mentioning a number. He mentions   gifts. Christian tradition supplies the kings, the camels, even names for the Kings (What?) and depicts them as coming from the three then-known continents, Europe, Africa and Asia.

 

Did all this come from nowhere? Is it all made up? No – hundreds of years before Jesus, the prophet Isaiah spoke of a day when the exiled Israelites would be restored to their homeland, and God would send them a king who would rule over the whole world. It’s Isaiah who speaks of kings who would fall down before the King of kings (as in our hymn), and bring gifts of gold and incense. It’s Isaiah who mentions camels and dromedaries coming across the desert to bring the wealth of the nations to the King.

 

Matthew has all this in mind. In actual fact, the wise men, whatever their number, may have been not very impressive, just travelling astrologers, but for Matthew they represent all the nations who would in time come to recognise the Jewish Messiah as their king too.

 

Matthew adds one gift to the two Isaiah mentions (what?). he mentions myrrh, used in embalming the dead for burial. Very gently, he is hinting that the new-born child worshipped by the wise men will not achieve his kingdom by force or military might, but only through suffering and death.

 

We are now going to re-enact the coming of the kings. What are our gifts? In the carol, ‘In the bleak mid-winter’ we sing, ‘What can I give him? Give my heart.’ In another hymn we sometimes sing, we say:

O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness,

Bow down before him, his glory proclaim

With gold of obedience and incense of lowliness

Kneel and adore him, the Lord is his name.

 

As we offer the gold, let us renew our loyalty to Christ our King.

As we offer the incense, let us offer our worship to Christ our God.

As we  offer the myrrh, let us offer our pains and griefs in union with Christ our Saviour.