Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 72; 148, Isaiah 52:7-10, Revelation 21:22-27, Matthew 12:14-21
Isaiah 60:1-6, Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14, Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12
Happy Epiphany! Today is the last day of the Christmas season. Our traditional reading is about the Magi: wise men who – led by a star – traveled from far lands to honor the infant Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Some people wait until today to add the Magi to complete their nativity scenes. If you haven’t yet listened to “We Three Kings” this season, today’s your day.
But the story of the Magi has a darker side. On their way to Bethlehem, the Magi visited King Herod to ask where the newborn King of the Jews might be found. Herod, jealous and fearful, met with the chief priests and scribes to learn all he could about the prophesied messiah, and secretly pumped the Magi for information. He told them “when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” In truth, he was less interested in homage than homicide. The Magi, warned in a dream not to return to Herod, went home by another route.
In our daily readings, the same crowd– still fearful of Jesus and all he represents – is conspiring to destroy the adult Jesus. For a time he goes underground, but continues his ministry of healing and justice. Jesus always is who he says he is; his enemies are not.
An epiphany is a moment of insight or revelation. One of the most important epiphanies in this story is when the Magi realize Herod’s intent differs from his words. We would be wise to follow their example. Often those who govern – religiously or civilly – publicly promote one agenda but follow another. From giving misleading titles to legislation, to unnecessarily “protecting” one group in order to suppress another, to rewriting history that judges them unfavorably, people tell us what they think we want to hear in order to lull us into going along with something else. In his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell called it doublethink, and it empowered tyranny.
Some epiphanies are spontaneous. Others are the product of critical thinking. Let’s make sure we’re ready for both.
Comfort: Jesus is always who he claims to be.
Challenge: Maintain a healthy skepticism of those in power, especially those who tell you what you want to hear.
Prayer: God of truth and light, I will seek to follow you always! Amen.
Discussion: What’s the last epiphany you had?
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