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Epiphany

Making the Journey

In the Christmas story we traditionally see two journeys to the manger of the infant king.

The shepherds were so captivated by the message of the angel that they left their sheep and made the journey to see this wonder that had come to pass in the city of David. They left their livelihoods and security; they found a new centre for their lives in the manger of him through whom all things were made.

The Magi came from the land where the sun rises; they had to turn their back on the light in order to come to the true light who is Christ. More than that, they had to travel by night following the flickering light of a star. Darkness makes everything the same, it is impossible to see details, to know where you are, to see where you are going. These wise men have to learn a new wisdom. They are amongst the first disciples in the New Testament.

Discipleship is for all, so there has to be another invitation to Herod and to all Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the city of the house of God, the place where God dwelt in the temple in the midst of his people. It was Herod who had built the Temple, this house of God, and Herod tended to regard God as his tenant. These mysterious strangers, who came from the edge of the world to the place the Jewish people considered the centre of the world, threatened Herod's control of his kingdom and of the temple.

The Magi had made a journey in the dark for about three years. It had been an arduous journey. Herod and all Jerusalem were infinitely more privileged than these gentile strangers because he knew in a few minutes what it had taken the wise men from the east so long to discover. He simply summoned his court theologians and asked 'where is the Messiah to be born?' They took out their scrolls, juggled their texts and came up with the answer in a few minutes: Bethlehem of Judah. Herod knew, he had access to a higher wisdom; the Magi followed the star, Herod knew God's word itself, but he never heard it. He did not make the journey. The centre of his life was his throne, his power, his possession of God's house. He could not abandon that centre, that is why he was troubled and all Jerusalem with him. They could not imagine that the world had a new centre; the centre of the world was now the cradle of an infant.

Leaving Jerusalem the Magi found and followed their star and it led them to where the child was. Their reaction was different from Herod's: he was troubled, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. They then entered the house; Matthew chooses his words well. This is the house of God, not the temple in Jerusalem, but this house sheltering the cradle of the king who will shepherd his people, there they offered their gifts. So, there are three invitations to worship the infant king, the shepherds and the wise men make the journey, they make the journey from the periphery to the centre. There is a third invitation to Herod and all Jerusalem, but Herod and all Jerusalem do not make the journey. In the Incarnation the world is turned inside out the periphery becomes the centre.

 

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