Gifts

Anne Powell’s Epiphany Message

January 6, 2017

Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face.It seems that everyone knew that something extraordinary had happened in Bethlehem, and everyone wanted to see it face to face. The shepherds, the wise men and even King Herod. If I had been born at that time I would probably have gone, even traveled half of the world, to check out what had happened. Epiphany, God revealed to us, a divine manifestation.

This day, Epiphany, January 6, is very important to me because as you know I grew up in Argentina and today is when all the kids get their presents. It is not on Christmas, but today, El Dia de los Reyes, the Kings Day. The children do not put our milk and cookies for Santa but put their shoes out with grass in them, for the camels, so they can eat while the wise men deliver their gifts. Children go to bed on January 5 in great anticipation for what the Kings will bring them in the morning on January the 6.

The nativity sets are very elaborate and always include the camels. I was looking at our two nativity sets and they have no camels. What is wrong with that picture? But maybe they were out eating.

Today we read in the Gospel according to Matthew the story of the wise men following a star. They are astronomers traveling from the East and arrived at Jerusalem, were they question King Herod: were is the child, who has been born king of the Jews? We want to find him so we can pay him homage. King Herod, frightening and after consulting with the chief priests  and scribes learns that it was written by the prophet that the child would be born in Bethlehem.

The wise men finds Mary with her child in Bethlehem, they kneel down and pay him homage and open their treasure chest and offer him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gifts that had great value. Strange gifts, don’t you think? Symbolically Gold represents Kingship, Frankincense is a symbol of priestly role and Myrrh as prefiguring of his death and embalming. The wise men then leave by another route and do not go back and tell King Herod where they found the child, as he had requested, because they had been warned in a dream not to go back.

The gift of dreams are very prevalent in Gods promises. Joseph was warned in a dream not to let go of Mary, and when the child was born to call him Jesus. The wise men were warned in a dream not to go back to Jerusalem for the child would not be safe. Joseph again was told in a dream to take Mary and the child and go to Egypt because King Herod was searching Jesus to kill him. Dreams are sometimes the way God talks to us, and thanks God that Joseph and the wise men listened and obeyed. The gifts the wise men left for Jesus may have been strange but on the other hand maybe not so much, they had practical uses. Gold because it helps us pay for what we need and both Frankincense and Myrrh had healing powers as well as they were sought out for their fragrances. Jesus was not even two years old and Joseph was told, again in a dream, to take Mary and the child and go to Egypt. They became refugees; they had to escape and go to another country to hopefully stay safe. I am sure that the gold the wise men left came in very handy on their trip. Joseph we know was a carpenter, but when you are on the run you cannot work, nor is it for sure that you will be allowed to work in the new country. Being a refugee could not have been fun for Mary and Joseph and I am sure that, when  they heard that King Herod had died, they were more than happy to return and pick up their life in their own country.

We do not know a lot of how they lived when they were in Egypt. What we do know now is that there are many many refugees in the world today and I hope that we remember that Mary, Joseph and Jesus were refugees and that we treat them with respect, dignity and kindness, just like I am sure we would want to treat the holy family.

So today we celebrate Epiphany, God manifested among us, remembering that the wise men found him, opened their treasure chest to give him gifts. Gifts that his family could use as they became refugees to save the child’s life.

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only son to the people of the earth. Thank you, and we pray that refugees in all the world may be safe surrounded by Your love.

Isaiah 60:1-6
Ephesians 3:1-12
Matthew 2;1-12
Psalm 72:1-7,10-14