St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Epiphany : Fr Tony Hogg

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 What drew the non-Jewish wise men to Bethlehem was the desire to worship the Prince of peace. These wise men, coming to offer their gifts to the baby, have now become part of the modern, commercialised Christmas. We’ve all probably received cards with a picture of three men on camels making their way to the stable, led by a glittering star. Or we’ve seen local children with crowns on their heads telling the old, old story. It's easy for us to assume that, beyond making Christmas more “Christmassy”, the visit of these wise men has no significance for us now. But we’d be wrong, for it has great significance. In journeying to Jesus, and in giving gifts to him, those three magi are conveying, right now, good news from God to you and me.
Firstly, in their journeying. Those wise men were not of the same religion or nationality as Jesus, and yet they came. They were not Jews, they were foreigners. They represented the whole pagan world, the Gentile world outside Israel. So they journeyed to Christ on behalf of us all – and that is good news for you and me, for it means that God, the Father of Jesus, is the God of all nations.
Secondly, those pagan foreigners offered gifts which were valuable in their eyes, according to their culture, and these gifts were accepted – and that is good news for us all. It is a sign that God accepts whatever people have to offer that is from the heart. The three kings didn’t have to forsake their own religions or nationalities before giving their gifts to Christ. Epiphany, then, doesn’t have to be seen as a celebration of the world’s conversion to Christianity, for God is God of all, and will accept what we all have to offer – prayers for peace, for example, from Christian and Muslim alike.
The account of the three kings tells us that God in Christ doesn’t mind where people have journeyed from, and he accepts whatever gifts they can offer him. He is the God of all nations of the world. Christ came to prove that fact to men and women of all races and creeds.
And the remarkable thing is that he began proclaiming that fact from when he was a baby, when humble shepherds, people from the lowest rungs of the Jewish social ladder, came to visit him, and then when the wealthy foreigners came journeying. Jesus couldn’t wait to prove that God has no favourites, no special people who are particularly acceptable. Later on, he will die for the sins of the whole world – the way, truth and life for all people.
So there can be no place in our hearts for racial prejudice, or for contempt towards people of a different religious faith. When we come journeying to God, to offer him our gifts, we should come as ourselves. We shouldn’t come as a Christian or as a Jew, or from a particular country or background. In terms of our standing with God, our race, our achievements, our social standing, our bank account – none of these mean anything at all.
This is tremendously good news – as Paul says in Colossians, “In Christ there is no Greek or Jew, no circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” And the three wise men, foreigners who journeyed from distant lands to give the child Jesus their gifts, have brought us this good news again – today.
A reminder too for us all to be followers of the wise men striving always to seek, look, and search for Jesus, so that we too may fall down and worship him, offering the precious gift of ourselves to him in faith.


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