The wise men seem to be the emphasis this time of year. Tradition tells us that they were astrologers and astronomers: they knew and followed the stars. They were men of science, and they followed their instincts in the pursuit of truth. They could have spent all their time in research and speculation on the nature of stars and the history of messianic expectation in Israel. But they did not: they, in fact, pursued the object of their curiosity until they found it. And when they found the young child beneath the star, at the end of their journey, they fell down and worshiped him.
Now, we admire the wise men for many things: their scientific prowess, their shrewdness in human relations, and their good taste in gifts. But what commends them to the attention of the church and to us is the fact that they came from a foreign place and the returned to a foreign place.
They don’t belong at the manger and so when they have finished their business there, they concluded their worship and returned home. These Wiseman are foreigners, intruders on the manger scene. They are Gentiles, non-Jews, people outside of the ancient covenants, men with no apparent claim upon God and men with whom God has not an apparent relationship.
You might say that they are our representatives, even more than the shepherds or angels could be. They represent us because, like us, they are Gentiles, no Jews. Without them, there is no room for us in Bethlehem, for the coming of the Messiah long foretold in Jewish prophecy was a Jewish thing, a secret time of redemption to be made ope in the fullness of time. We re the Gentiles, and the Epiphany, or the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, is in some way our celebration.
Paul describes himself as an apostle to the Gentiles. He seeks his whole mission as a means of communicating that gospel to the Gentiles. In other words, what God began in creation and carried forth through his prophets and witness in the history of Israel is now, in the person of this babe of Bethlehem, made available to the whole world.
And so we are a part of the saving work of Christ. The ancient prophecy is for us...the star guides and illumines us...the infant king is Lord not just of the Jews or of his own time and place but of us all.
The Epiphany is an invitation to the mission of the church: private, personal, public and corporate. A Christian cannot be a Christian and not share Christ. Ours is no secret religion, no hidden, private gospel, and no special reserved stock for the chosen people alone. We are called to be representatives of Christ in the world. We are all missionaries in the most immediate sense of that word, sharing the amazing love of Christ.
Think of it! You and I have the opportunity and the obligation to share Christ with the whole world, to proclaim by what we do, who and whose we are. In this Epiphany season, let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven!
Blessings for the New Year!
* A very special thank you to all of your gifts to Cherri and me during the holiday Season! What a wonderful privilege to be your pastor and a part of this special Congregation! You are all very special to us, and we thank you for letting us be a part of your lives!