After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judaea during the reign of King Herod, some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east. ‘Where is the infant king of the Jews?’ they asked. ‘We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.’ When King Herod heard this he was perturbed, and so was the whole of Jerusalem. He called together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, and enquired of them where the Christ was to be born. ‘At Bethlehem in Judaea,’ they told him ‘for this is what the prophet wrote: And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, you are by no means least among the leaders of Judah, for out of you will come a leader who will shepherd my people Israel.’
Then Herod summoned the wise men to see him privately. He asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared, and sent them on to Bethlehem. ‘Go and find out all about the child,’ he said ‘and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.’ Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And there in front of them was the star they had seen rising; it went forward, and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. But they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way.
Sunday is the feast of the Epiphany. This year, the feast falls on the last but one day of the Christmas Season. (The season itself ends with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, celebrated this year on Monday 9th January).
The feast celebrates the coming of the Magi, an episode told by Matthew and which symbolises the revelation of the Incarnation to the Gentiles. The particular story of evangelisation beyond Israel and its people begins here.
It is a story of events already stained and soiled by the murderous intent of king Herod – who was of Jewish stock from his mother’s side and raised as a Jew. but whose life style betrays the promise of that heritage.
The problem of evil and resistance to God’s gift of his Son, his life and his love, is set to the fore of the Christmas story. The gifts of the Magi acknowledge God’s power and glory manifest in the child, and anticipate his Passion.
The Magi, as Joseph and his family, are kept safe by the promptings of God disclosed in the whispers of dreams.
- Where do you find you best hear the voice of God addressed to you
- Where do you best hear his calls to keep you safe?
Visit of the Magi, St Peter the Apostle, Leamington Spa. (C) 2016, Allen Morris