Isaiah 60: 1 – 6
Ephesians 3: 1 – 12
Matthew 2: 1 – 12
We all like receiving gifts. Some appeal more than others and still yet others again can have a lasting influence on us. My daughter’s boyfriend gave her a cat for Christmas which we had for 18 yrs. Monty had a lasting influence!
The Magi (these wise men from the east) were overwhelmed with joy when they saw where the star was stopped. They had brought their treasure chests with them, loaded with precious gifts.
They knew that there was more to it than simply a child who has been born king of the Jews. That would have been confirmed to them when, upon telling King Herod, they discovered that he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him.
Did the Magi understand the import of what they were engaging with?.
- Paul speaks of a mystery not made known to former generations.
- It is a mystery hidden for ages in* God
- Significantly 11This was in accordance with the eternal purpose of God.
So the wise men were led by a star into something much older and bigger than they could have imagined. For thousands of years God had held close to his chest the plans he had for restoring creation to himself, and these plans begin to unfold in the birth of a tiny baby born in a humble dwelling in Bethlehem.
60Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
Within a short while this little family are refugees, fleeing to Egypt in order to escape being murdered by King Herod. But they will return to Galilee where they came from.
Jesus would grow up, begin his ministry of teaching, healing and casting out demons. The import of who he is, and of his words would so rock the establishment that between them, both the Jewish authorities and their Roman overlords, they would put him to death.
The story might have ended there but for three events:
- Jesus rose from the dead
- He ascended into heaven
- He sent the Holy Spirit
These actions were all remarkable in themselves
- His resurrection not only confirmed his victory over the vicious twins of sin and death, but also signalled the restoration of all that had broken down and decayed.
- His ascension meant he was leaving the job of implementing his plan of restoration and salvation to his followers – the church
- The coming of the Holy Spirit meant he was giving the church the power to do what he expected from them
The Magi almost certainly would not have imagined that God would leave the implementation of his great plan – what Paul called the grace given to him to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, 9and to make everyone see* what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in* God who created all things – that God would leave all this – in the hands of a few simple folk then, and in the hands of you and me now.
God has such an important role for you and me. We, and others around us who believe in Jesus, are the church.
Let me read on.
8Although I am the very least of all the saints, (says Paul) this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, 9and to make everyone see* what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in* God who created all things; 10so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
The church is to announce to all the powers of both heaven and earth what this good news – this Gospel – is.
In Scripture the church is variously described as the Bride of Christ and the Body of Christ. Both terms indicate how very important a role God has for it – for you and me.
There is a saying you may have heard: “Wise men still seek him.” Well, that’s true.
I’ll tell you what else they do.
- They grow up. They don’t hide behind crowds in places where the services are enjoyable and then carry on their self-centred lives unchanged by the Word of God. They line up for duty – faithfully. They roll up their sleeves and build the community of God in the place they are found.
- They understand that the resurrection changes everything. It is the great reversal that turns the tide of events and possibilities. It is an indication from God that He’s putting all to rights
- They understand that the Ascension means it’s all up to people like them, like you and me. Jesus is no longer physically on earth running ragged like an overworked general
- They understand that the coming of the Holy Spirit gives them the potential, if they act in faith, to get the job done.
They have a hunger to see that what began as a curiosity to some Eastern sages, was in fact the mystery hidden for ages in* God who created all things – the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, – they have a hunger to carry out God’s plan of serving Christ because they understand that when we give to God all that is precious to us, he multiplies it, not just to others, but to ourselves as well.
The gift of our very selves to God is more precious than any gold, frankincense or myrrh, because he multiplies what we give to the benefit of all. And he does it in the context of the ekklesia, the gathered saints, the church.
Our precious gift to God is ourselves. His precious gift is the Gospel – the Good News. It is also what we have to give others.
However, no matter how significant the gift of ourselves to God may be, it is overshadowed by the tremendous gift of Christ to us. That we are his Body is both a mystery and a joy, and draws from us wonder and praise that far outweighs any awe evidenced by the Magi of old. May this joy be your strength in this season of Epiphany.