Happy New Year.
Epiphany is the time when we think the kings (wisemen) who came from afar bearing gifts for the new-born king. There is awe and wonder in the story of the wandering magi led to Jesus from the distant East by a star. It testifies to the far reaching, indeed global and cosmic implications of Jesus birth. Even more it witnesses to God’s commitment to reach all the world with His redeeming love.
But what about those gifts – gold, frankincense and myrrh. Some may think that these gifts were not appropriate for a baby or a child. In fact, a friend gave me a plaque which says, ‘Three wise women would have …asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, brought practical gifts and there would be peace of earth.’ No sexism is intended.
And yet the gifts of the magi couldn’t be more appropriate. Gold is the sign of kingship. frankincense, a costly incense, representing wisdom and priesthood and myrrh used in anointing the dead. Each symbolic of Jesus – his kingship, his priesthood and his sacrificial death for all of us – a foretaste of his redeeming work.
Epiphany gives us a chance to focus on what gifts skills and talents we each have to offer Jesus. So, what can we give to God?
Gold reminds us of the things that we value and cherish. God gives us all have, and we can only give back to him what he has already given to us. Perhaps a purse or wallet represents this.
Incense reminds us of holiness. The gift here is our time. God wants all our lives to be holy every day, not just Sunday. He wants our lives to be filled with his holiness, full of his love and truth. We become more holy as we allow God to enter our lives day by day. As we give our time to God. Perhaps a diary or watch represents this.
Myrrh speaks of Jesus being set aside for a special task – to die for us on the cross. The point is that first we must ‘die to sin,’ as Paul puts it, by confessing what we’ve done wrong and being open to receive God’s forgiveness through the death of Jesus. Then we offer our whole lives to God for him to direct and use. Perhaps a mirror represents this in terms of us changing to reflect God’s glory.
We are all familiar with the last verse of ‘In the bleak mid-winter.’
‘What can I give him, poor as I am, If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb.
If I were a wiseman, I would do my part – yet what I can I give him, give my heart.’
At the start of this New Year, it is a good time to take another look at our response to God.
How well do we give ourselves to God in response to his wonderful gift to us?
How readily and regularly do we spent time with God in worship, in prayer, in reading his Word?
How readily and regularly do give of ourselves and our time to someone who needs love and compassion?
How well do we used our gifts to do our work honestly and well?
How do we care for the earth and work to ensure its sustainability?
How readily do we give to God, not second best, not what’s simply ‘good enough,’ but the best of what we have to offer?
The wisemen went home by another road, we too can walk a different road this year, a road where we can make the king of kings the living, active centre of everything we are and do as individuals and as a church.
A happy new year to everyone.