Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Gospel for Epiphany Sunday, 6 January 2014

Matthew 2:1-12             In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage." When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
`And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.'"
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage." When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
Reflection      Three gifts. What three gifts do each one of us have to lay at the feet of the least among us? What three gifts do we have to express our recognition and gratitude for the revelation that God is with us... with all people .. all of the time?

According to the writer of Matthew’s gospel the epiphany of Jesus, which is to say, the revelation of God present in this world of ours, was accompanied by the offering of three gifts, three extravagant gifts. The question is, does the custom of offering our most precious gifts to respectfully acknowledge the value and worth of other people - even strangers - even a virtually homeless infant - does the custom of dignifying others by offering our gifts continue among us today?

Let’s begin with this morning. How many of us woke up this morning, looked outside and marveled at the diversity, complexity and beauty of creation? How many of us recognized the artistry and elegance of nature as a revelation of God present? How many of us offered our gifts of praise, reverence and conscious care for this fragil earth our island home? How many of us made choices to revere and respect the earth, even at our own expense?

How many of us walked into a public place this day, looked into the eyes of friends and strangers, saw weariness and vigor, suffering and joy? How many of us recognized the tenacity and infirmity of our sisters and brothers as a revelation of God present? How many of us offered our gifts to comfort, encourage and support humanity? How many of us made choices to dignify every human being, even at our own expense?

How many of us remember the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you?” (60.1) How many of us have experienced the intuition or insight into the reality that God is closer to us than our own breath? Paul says it this way, “God’s love (or light) has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us?” (Romans 5.5) How many of us understand the light and love of God lives at the very center of our being and this light, this love of God is meant to flow out of us for the benefit of others? 

Don’t you see, that is what it means to open our treasure chests. That is what it means to offer our most precious gifts to respect and dignify every person - especially the least among us. That is what the Magi did two thousand years ago, and as continuing revelations or epiphanies of God present we are intended to do likewise.  What three gifts will you lay at the feet of the least among us?

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