Epiphany 2011
Matthew 2:1-12

A Liturgy is also available


Over the Christmas holidays there was a new story
doing the rounds of the eMail circuits.
        It claims that because the nativity stories were written by men
        there is a gap in the narratives about the birth
                of Mary and Joseph’s baby boy.

This alternative version says that…
Three Wise Women actually arrived before the three Wise Men (Ones).
The women quickly asked for directions,
got there in time to deliver the baby,
made a casserole,
and brought disposable nappies, baby cream and baby powder
as their gifts for Mary,
and a soft toy for the baby.


Today, we move further into the church's traditional calendar…
into the season of Epiphany.
          Epiphany means 'revelation' or 'showing forth'.

In our everyday contemporary language we could say: 
Epiphany is about ‘going on a journey, searching’.

During Epiphany we hear a collection of stories:
of the Magi or Wise Ones,
the baptism of Jesus,
and the Marriage Feast of Cana, where Jesus begins his public ministry, 
and the calling of the first disciples.

Interestingly enough, the biblical stories imply
Epiphany is a search everyone must make.

The storyteller we call Luke... has the poor doing the searching,
in the form of shepherds.

The storyteller we call Matthew... has the learned (and rich) doing the searching,
in the form of the Magi.

Now, we're used to hearing the story of the Magi, aren't we.
But it took me a while to realise our religious tradition
        gives us two sets of so-called Magi or Wise Ones.

The first set are the ones we call the Magi.
Legend (not history) has it there were three 
and they have those lovely mediaeval names of 

And they took a series of risks as they pushed some boundaries and
searched the heavens,
followed the star,
and made a commitment.

But there was a second group of Wise Ones, the one's Herod called in…
The scribes and the pharisees.

Herod says to these Wise Ones, "I've got a problem here”. 
And when you've got a problem you either
call in the experts, or check out Wikipedia!
          Herod chose the former.

He gathered a bunch of them together and said,
"They talk of the birth of a messiah;
I want to know where he is to be born."

And these Wise Ones come up with a ‘poetic’ answer: 
"In Bethlehem of Judea.”
          And that's all that we hear of them.

Two groups of so-called 'wise ones’. 
Two different groups of 'wise ones’.
One group prepared to play it safe…
One group, curious about the new, but prepared to take some risks.

This Epiphany, we are asked to choose between the two 'wise' types:
      between those who play it safe, and
      between those who take a risk.


I feel this year is going to be a very interesting
and important year for this congregation of (NN).
      A bit of a watershed year, you might say.

I hope it will be a year where we all dare to:
• use our imaginations a little more,
• recommit our involvement a little more, and
• like the Magi, become changed ourselves because of the experience
and ‘return home by another way’.

Maybe we need an image to help us as we begin
our new year together, as minister and people.         
          And the image I like is of being on a journey…
          on a camping trip, in tents, to be exact.

We are on a journey.
And because we are in tents, we need to travel light.
While we need the 'kitchen sink', it needs to be a light-weight kitchen sink!
But more than that, we are all on the journey
      We need each other's guidance.
      We need each other's encouragement.
      We need each other's imagination.
      We need each other's curiosity.
      We need ach other’s creativity.
      We need each other’s balance.

We are all on a journey.
And all of us are at different points on that journey.

Some of us are way up the front; others of us are at the rear.
Some of us are willing; some of us are dragging our feet just a bit.
Some of us journey with great certainty; some of us have some doubt.

It doesn't matter where we are in the trip…
I just think it's important that we are journeying at all.
      At least we've responded... we're taking the risk,
      to explore, and to return home by another way!

As a result of their journey, the Magi were changed.
      No longer could they be instruments of a government oppression.
      No longer could they repose in cynicism.
      No longer could they face the world with mere curiosity, remaining aloof.

They were changed.  For they had been confronted
with the newness and the hope experienced in Creativity God.

And their story is our story, too.
Home by a different way, never to be the same again.

And in a way that too is what Epiphany is about.
        Another way to live.
        Another way to love.
        Another way to belong.
        Another way to be all we can possibly be.

Because Creativity God “is a god on the move and on the margins” (JShuck. Shuck&Jive blog, 16/1/2011).

Colleague John Shuck continues:
“This is a god who invites us to…
Imagine a world in which there are no weapons because no one can ever think of a need for one.
Imagine a world in which we don’t fear each other but enjoy each other.
Imagine a world in which no one ever needs to worry about what to eat or what to wear or where to sleep.
Imagine a world in which we give what we take and everyone has enough.
Imagine a world in which our talents and creativity are valued for the joy they bring not the profit they make.
Imagine a world in which the circle of care is so large that no one is left out.
Imagine a world in which education is a lifetime love of learning.
Imagine a world in which we live with the rhythms of Earth.
Imagine a world in which we respect and care for all living things.
Imagine a world in which the decisions we make are made with the awareness of how they will affect seven generations to come.
Imagine a world in which we are daily filled with awe and joy”  
(JShuck. Shuck&Jive blog, 16/1/2011).

The journey awaits us…
This is Epiphany time, searching and journeying time!
        Welcome to the journey... to an exciting camping trip.