Scripture for Epiphany Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020

Matthew 2:1-12 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Visit of the Wise Men

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men[a] from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising,[b] and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah[c] was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd[d] my people Israel.’”

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men[e] and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising,[f] until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped,[g] they were overwhelmed with joy.

11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Some Thoughts on Today’s Reading—From Pastor Pam

The story of the visiting Wise Men is found only in the Gospel of Matthew. They joyfully follow a star that leads them to a house where the child is with his mother Mary. They fall before the baby paying homage. They worship him and then give him other gifts. The story also includes a threatening King Herod to whom the Wise Men (they are called this for a reason) give a wide birth. After visiting the baby, they take the long way home and decline to re-visit Herod despite the King’s manipulative tactics.

In Luke, an angel appears to shepherds watching their sheep under the night sky. The angel spectacularly informs them the Savior has been born and tells them what to look for. The shepherds decide to go to Bethlehem where they find Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in a manger.

For both sets of visitors, the reaction is one of joy and recognition of a sacred and holy portent. Wise Men and shepherds alike, both experience an epiphany and a moment of great and blessed meaning. Herod dangerously remains in the shadows.

On Christmas Eve, we focused on Luke’s account. Today we travel with the Wise Men to Bethlehem. The theme of both stories is this holy moment that lights up the darkness bringing joy and praise for what God has done and will do. However, Matthew reminds us that Herod’s dark, violent and selfish motives hang in the background more than ready to lash out harmfully.

One way to think about this today is to consider how we approach the baby each day and moment of our lives. Are we brave like the Wise Men who said no to Herod refusing further communication with him? Do we commit to glorifying and praising God? Do we greet every day, make every decision and approach each moment and person giving thanks to God and honoring him with ourselves? Epiphany reminds us that the best gift we give is honoring God in all we say and do.

Peace and Grace,

Pastor Pam