Epiphany’s call

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Biblea personal and biblical reflection, based on Matthew 2.1-12, on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 2016

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Whenever I read and reflect, as I did this Epiphany morning, on Matthew’s (and the Bible’s only) account of the visit of the magi, those astrologer-philosophers from the East, to the newborn Jesus in Bethlehem, my attention always is arrested by this detail. The magi, going home, returned “by another road.”

Before going to Bethlehem, they had stopped in Jerusalem, inquiring of King Herod, “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.” Herod, alarmed that another might claim his throne, deceitfully replied, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” Matthew, remarking on the providence of divine purpose outflanking the intent of human ill, tells us that the magi, forewarned by a vision, bypassed Jerusalem on their way home.

Nevertheless, I see in Matthew’s language the imagery of change. The magi had come to Bethlehem to see and worship “the child who has been born king.” I don’t know what, who they expected, but surely, I think, it couldn’t have been one “wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger”[1] (a filthy feeding trough for animals). So, they, as I interpret it, having beheld grandest majesty in grossest humility, had their perceptions and opinions, their knowledge and sense of the way things are challenged, confronted and changed.

This morning, as I continued to reflect on the magi and project myself into this still new year, I recalled words I’d written in my journal on January 6, 2014 (words that I contemplated in a blogpost this day a year ago: change: journey’s end & beginning – a reflection for The Epiphany):

There are times and seasons of calling

when signs appear, bidding that I come

on a journey, though one not always straight or smooth,

but filled with trial and test.

Still, only when I dare embark

can I know the meaning of the beckoning;

one that ever begins within, calling me to change.

I wonder. 2016, what will you bring? What will I behold in the manger of your days that will challenge, confront me, calling me to change? My way of perceiving? Thinking? Feeling? Being?

Footnote:

[1] Luke 2.12

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4 thoughts on “Epiphany’s call

  1. So many things can occur in us when we expect one thing and get something else. I’d love know what the maji was feeling at the moment his perceptions were changed. I like to call that “forced change”, which we can all choose to embrace or stew about.

    I pray that all the things you behold in 2016 that may challenge and change you may also fill you with wonder, excitement and hope.

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    • When I envision the approach of the magi to that Bethlehem stable, I imagine that they were filled with expectancy. Then, when they entered and beheld the babe first shock, then wonder; a wonder that brought them to their knees and offering their gifts. Who knows how long they stayed (after all, it is a story; not necessarily factual, but no less truthful!), but whenever it is they rose to their feet, I imagine their heads were spinning and their hearts racing, again with wonder AND, in that, an awareness that they were different. In beholding the newborn Christ child, something on them – their old ways – had died and something new in outlook and demeanor had been born. So, they departed and journeyed home “by another way.” This is my hope for me and for all in this new year.

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  2. A very interesting commentary on the Epiphany story. It brings to mind the conclusion of one of my favorite poems, the T.S.Eliot Journey of the Magi:

    We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
    But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
    With an alien people clutching their gods.
    I should be glad of another death.

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    • Ah, yes, Anne, T.S. Eliot’s very fine poem. I remember it well and recall it with great affection, especially the paradox of the magus, on reflection, knowing that he had experienced in the birth of Jesus his own death. Death to his worldview and his world where he lives with his now “alien people.” That last line, “I should be glad of another death,” which I read and interpret as the magus’ desire to die for his former (and present) life no longer holds the power of meaning for him, always leaves me sad.

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