Epiphany reflection by Canon Dean Fostekew Sunday 9th January 2022

'We look for a star' Anon
Saviour and Son, the star the Wise Men knew Led them to thee: at Christmas now, we too look anxiously into the silent night,
Lit by God's stars, where man's own satellites Spin between the shining spheres:
O Christmas Child, let hopes, not fears
Upon the aching world prevail,
That we, who set our smaller suns to sail
In the bright firmament of thy design,
Seek out a star divine
To follow - and on Christmas night,
Find grace and peace in sight.

As a historical event the feast of the Epiphany is hard to prove. It is only recorded in the Gospel according to Matthew. In that account we are told of the visit of the Wise Men or Magi from the East and after initial references to them Matthew does not mention them again. Was Matthew making the whole thing up and if so why?

Matthew's Gospel narrative is the most Jewish of the four accounts and he seems to be writing in a way that will convince the Jews that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. For example the Gospel begins

with a very Jewish genealogy of Christ, tracing his origins through David, Solomon and Abraham and drawing upon Isaiah's prophesy that:

'..a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son ..' Isaiah 7:14.

Matthew uses the account of the visit of the Magi - gentiles from the East - to emphasise to his Jewish audience Christ's ‘Jewish-ness’. The Magi are searching for the 'King of the Jews' and in stating that Jesus is the King of the Jews Matthew shows his readers that Jesus Christ is their Messiah and that he comes for both Jews and the gentiles, for as he writes, it was the gentiles who first recognised him for who he is. The Magi those representatives of the gentiles came and worshipped the new born king. The Jews represented by Herod were afraid and sought to destroy the child. In the visit of the Wise Men we also see Christ revealed to the whole world as its Lord and saviour. Yes, Jesus was born a Jew but he was not born for Jews alone.

This day also has another poignant symbol associated with it, the Star. Astrological research seems to suggest that there was a comet in the heavens at approximately the time of Christ's birth, and the comet is thought to have been so bright that it would have stood out from the other stars.

The Magi were probably astrologers and possibly magicians. Matthew is at pains to emphasise that from the point of the birth of Christ the Magi’s powers are made redundant. In finding and accepting the Christ the Magi obviously abandoned their magic and divinations. For magic is a means of getting something done when the doer lacks the strength to do it alone. It depends on the belief that in order to achieve that which the individual cannot do alone, there are forces that can be called upon to help - good or bad. What magic does is to extend one’s will and the power one has over a situation and other people. In recognising the Christ and accepting his ways one has to do away with self- will.

We are called to love our enemies, to do good, to put an end to self-centredness. Like the magi who left the tools of their trade - gold, frankincense and myrrh in Bethlehem, we too have to leave the tools of our self-will in that stable as well if we are to become true followers of Christ.

Matthew uses the story of the Magi's visit as a means of encouraging us to say farewell to all the

tricks we use to get our own way – the flattery, the deceit, the lying. We are warned to be suspicious of the magic of our personalities and to adopt as our role model the God who loves us unconditionally and indiscriminately.

The Magi were led to the one with power greater than their own, to the one who put away the need for magic. The child whom Herod feared was more powerful than any of us could ever comprehend for his influence is always good. At the visit of the Magi to the Christ child the world learned that Jesus was born for all God’s people regardless of who they are; Jew or gentile, male or female, black or white for all without exception.

Eternal God
who by the shining of a star
led the Wise Men to the worship of your Son; Guide by his light the nations of the earth, that the whole world may behold your glory. Amen.