January 2013

Dear Friends in Christ,

The story of the wise men reminds us that the child who was born in Bethlehem came not only to bring salvation to the Jews but, as Simeon declares in Luke 2:32, to be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles.” Jesus’ birth, which was heralded by angels and shepherds, by an old priest and an elderly prophetess, went unobserved and un-celebrated by most people in Israel. Certainly, the religious establishment missed his advent and the political authorities of the time were hostile to the very idea of a new king in Israel. Even so, an unknown number of wise men, bearing three majestic gifts - gold frankincense, and myrrh, made an arduous journey to seek the Christ child. They traveled from a afar, from the East, following a new star.  They probably sojourned at night to keep the star in view. They did not know where the trip would take them or who they would find at journey’s end.  They stopped in Jerusalem looking for help and guidance from Herod’s court, only to be met with blank faces and royal deception.  They sought diligently for the child until they found him with his mother in Bethlehem.  In traditional creches and nativity scenes, we are accustomed to seeing the wise men standing by the manger, but scripture testifies that they discovered Jesus, not in a stable, but in a house. Scripture also describes the wise men paying homage to a child, not a baby. It’s believed that Jesus may already have reached the age of two before the wise men finally found the holy child. Their travels were long, their destiny uncertain. What an act of faith and devotion for them to travel so far in search of a mysterious king in a foreign land. The wise men were willing to sacrifice their comfort, their time, their fortunes, to spend years away from family, friends, home, in order to worship this child, Jesus.

You and I, like the wise men of old, are the Gentiles to whom Jesus comes as a light of revelation.  In Jesus, we see God revealed as never before. In Jesus, we discover that God’s love is not limited to his chosen people, Israel, but extends to all the nations of the world and to the whole human family. Jesus gives up the glories of heaven to sojourn on earth with us, to know our joys and our sorrows, to share our struggles and our accomplishments, to be Emmanuel, God-with-us. Do we long to see him, to know him, to serve him? Do we have the faith and devotion of the wise men, who wanted nothing more than to worship the King and offer him their most precious gifts? Or are we indifferent like the Israelites, hostile like Herod?  To what degree are we willing to sacrifice our comfort, time, fortunes, our family, friends, home, in order to seek the Christ? Do we long to give him precious gifts? Are we willing to follow wherever he leads?  Do we want nothing more than to worship and serve him?

January 6 is Epiphany. On this day, the Christian church celebrates the coming of the wise men to worship the Christ child. On this day, we see the wise men bringing their gifts and we are challenged to consider what gifts we can bring. The carol, “In the Bleak Midwinter”, whose lyrics are by Christina G. Rosetti, puts the question this way:

“What can I give him, poor as I am?  If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb, if I were a wise man, I would do my part; yet what can I give him; give my heart..”

Michael Slaughter’s book “Christmas is Not Your Birthday” asks us to embrace Jesus, our Lord and Savior, by thinking about what Jesus’ Christmas “wish list” might be.  What is Jesus hoping for, longing for, from you and from me?

At the end of their journey, God warns the wise men to go home by another road. Epiphany is a good time for us to reorient our path, to seek new direction for our faith journey. What will we do differently in the coming year, in years ahead, to more fully follow Christ’s lead and serve his interests? Are we willing to walk in new ways, do new things, journey in faith in order to worship and glorify Jesus, the Christ?

Epiphany is sometimes a neglected holy day, and yet it is a wonderful time to be reminded:

  1. that Jesus came into the world to be a light to all people of every nation.
  2. that Jesus is deserving of our worship and our most precious gifts .
  3. that, like the wise men, we are called to sacrifice for the Christ, and finally
  4. that Jesus’ imprint on our lives directs us to go in new ways, to seek new paths, to follow God’s promptings wherever God leads.

May the rich meaning of the celebration of Epiphany launch each of us on a sacred spiritual journey as we begin this new year in Christ’s holy service.

In His Precious Love,

Rev. Peggy Ann Sauerhoff