Scripture Readings: Isaiah 60:1–6 | Psalm 72:1–7, 10–14 | Ephesians 3:1–12 | Matthew 2:1–12
What does the coming of Jesus Christ reveal to us? What is the coming of Jesus Christ meant to reveal through us?
This coming Wednesday, January the 6th, is the Feast of Epiphany: the manifestation of Jesus Christ as much more than He appears to be. Epiphany reminds us that the small, Jewish boy whose birth we just celebrated at Christmas, is in reality the Son of God, the Saviour King… not only of Israel, but of the entire world. Epiphany opens our eyes to just how big the Good News really is.
And yet, so much of Epiphany’s shocking story has largely lost it’s impact. Today, we heard from Matthew’s Gospel an old familiar story: some wise men, magi, from the east, following a star, bring gifts of myrrh, frankincense, and gold to the child, Jesus. It’s a scene many of us have seen in countless pageants, or Christmas cards… and so it can be pretty easy to lose out on the sense of surprise, or even shock, that this story actually has to offer… how easy it is to take for granted the wonderful things the Living God is revealing, to, and through, His people today.
So what does Epiphany, the appearing of Jesus Christ, reveal to us? For starters, it reveals the amazing humility of God.
In stark contrast to King Herod… and beyond him to the Emperor in Rome, the arrival of God’s Son did not conform to normal notions of power. He was born, not in the predictable centre of political influence, the holy capitol city of Jerusalem, where the wise men assumed the King of the Jews would be found, but rather in Bethlehem, in the ‘city’ of David’s birth… a name which reminds Matthew’s readers that centuries before, the LORD chose a poor, overlooked shepherd-boy to become the greatest King of His covenant people, Israel, and promised that one of David’s offspring would one day become the King of all Kings. And so now, in David’s city, God’s Son came to a young peasant couple, living on the distant edge of the Roman Empire, about as far from fame or prestige as imaginable. Epiphany shows us that the Living God is not playing by the rules of the world… the rules of self-serving pride and power. No, God is actively overturning our common expectations of how things are done. God’s Son will be a King unlike any other.
Another surprising revelation that Epiphany has in store for us is the radically welcoming grace of the Living God. This grace is most clearly seen in the coming of the wise men, from the East, which is meant to stir up our imaginations about where the rest of Christ’s story is headed. N.T. Wright makes this helpful point: “The arrival of the ‘Magi’ (that’s the word Matthew uses for them; it can refer to ‘magicians’, or ‘astrologers’, or experts in interpreting dreams, portents and other strange happenings) introduces us to something which Matthew wants us to be clear about from the start. If Jesus is in some sense king of the Jews, that doesn’t mean that his rule is limited to the Jewish people.”  After all, these magi were Gentiles… that is, non-Israelites, yet they were drawn to honour and worship the newborn ‘King of the Jews’. While King Herod and his scribes, who were supposed to be leading God’s people, were missing the moment of the coming of the LORD’s long-awaited Messiah, those from far off, both literally and spiritually, were being drawn near… foreshadowing the end of Matthew’s Gospel, when the resurrected Jesus would send out His apostles to “go and make disciples of all nations.” Epiphany reveals to us that what God is doing in Christ, God is doing for all people, not just a few. The LORD is drawing all people to Himself through Jesus Christ His Son. He is the King of the Jews, but His Kingdom is open to all.
Which leads to one more revelation Epiphany has for us: The joy of God. We might think something as sacred as the start of God’s rescue mission must be solemn and serious, especially considering all of the obstacles that need to be overcome. So often when it comes to matters of faith, or the Church, it’s easier to think in terms of duty than delight. But we are told today that the wise men were filled… were overwhelmed with joy when the star stopped, leading them to Jesus at last. And along with all the sacred seriousness of Christ’s arrival, and in the midst of all the difficulties and dangers, the coming of God’s Son is still the source of profound joy… of a deep sense that in Jesus, the world is being put back on track… that beyond our wildest dreams, God’s New Day is dawning. Epiphany reveals to us the joyfulness of God’s New Life, the joy which he shares with the world through His Son.
There’s so much more Epiphany has to show us, I’m sure… but for today, perhaps these three are enough: The coming of Christ reveals to us the humility of God, the welcoming grace of God, and the gift of joy God is offering in Jesus Christ.
But the question remains: what is the coming of Christ meant to reveal through us? In the light of Epiphany, was is our role to play? As members of the Church, after all, we are being drawn into Christ’s story: sharing in His Kingdom, His mission, and His New Life.
Again, there are many ways we could answer this question, but I think these same three things are a good place to start: Epiphany shows us that God desires to make His humility, His welcoming grace, and His joy manifest in the world through us, through the Church, the body of Jesus Christ, His Son.
How does our life display God’s humility? Are there places where we let ourselves be guided (or blinded) by pride? Are we stuck playing by the rules of the world around us, or are we willing to set our egos aside and let God have His way, even if that means letting Him turn our lives upside down? So often we can think that God won’t want to use ordinary people like us… but Epiphany reminds us God loves to lift up the humble… to work within the lives of those the world thinks nothing of, in order to share His Kingdom in the most surprising ways. So let us pray: LORD, let Your humble Spirit shine through us, and keep us from the snares of self-doubt, and selfish pride.
How does our life make evident the LORD’s welcoming grace? Are we consciously or unconsciously setting up barriers between us and the people God is longing to draw to Himself? Are we eager to open our doors and ourselves to whomever God brings our way? Are we willing to bring the Good News of Jesus out of our church and into our neighbourhood? Our relationships? Our everyday lives? It’s easy to keep the message of the Gospel to ourselves, but Epiphany reminds us this message is really meant for all. So let us pray: LORD, let Your welcoming grace shine through us, and keep our hearts from growing cold from fear, and prejudice.
How does our life bring the Living God’s joy to birth? Not through a forced smile, but a true sense of delight in what God is up to. Are we able to let the exciting, world-changing significance of the Good News of Jesus soak into our hearts, and shape the way we see and live out our own stories? So often we can get so distracted or discouraged, and lose sight of the wonderful ways God is still at work in our world… and the hope we have been given through Jesus Christ, our King. So let us pray: LORD, let Your joy abide in us always, and keep us close to You the source of all true delight, as we follow Your Son Jesus to Your everlasting Kingdom.
And may the light of Epiphany, that is, the light of Jesus Christ, shine on us, and shine through us, forever. Amen
 Tom Wright, Matthew for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-15 (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 11.