“Are you an Angel or a Star Person?”
Ephesians 3: 1-12 & Matthew 2: 1-12
As we close out the Christmas season with feast of the Epiphany (visit of the wise men to the Christ child) I have a very profound question for you? On the top of your tree do you have an angel or a star? Ok, by a show of hands – angels? Stars? Interesting, more angels, not that it matters but I want us to think of the role of these two things in the Christmas story. While, it’s not my thought but it’s a good thought I want to share with you. That when it comes down to it, it is these two symbols, that bookend Christmas between what happened to the shepherds and the magi, that help us to understand what God is doing in the revelation of Jesus.
Let us begin with the shepherds. They were of the people of Israel, a people that had been waiting for centuries for the messiah to come. Steeped in the Hebrew scriptures is this hope. In our psalm we have a great example of it. It is the 72nd Psalm who speaks of the king who is to come. Who will rule with justice and righteousness, who will fight oppression and who will bring prosperity to all. So when the angels came, they knew what they had been hoping for. The king, the messiah, the anointed one. So it was good news to them, though they were sorely afraid but they headed to Bethlehem to share what had been told them. The magi, or wise men, were the opposite. They came not from the Hebrew tradition but rather the traditions of the East. Traditions of with a different history, of a different people and which were astrological in foundation. A history which is much at odds with what the Hebrew scriptures proclaim. Despite that they could look at the heavens and the stars and see that a messiah had been born. In the angel and in the star we see a glimpse into how God has revealed what he has done to humanity. From time to time I talk about this. It is specific revelation versus general revelation. Specific revelation is found in scripture and the prophets of old. It speaks of how God is to act and points the faithful in that direction. General revelation is the handiwork of God. It is the understanding that what God has done cannot be contained and is seen in creation itself. How Great Thou Art, that wonderful old hymn is a wonderful example of this. It talks of seeing God in the awesome wonder of creation and in holding a newborn. This general revelation is what the magi responded to, the wonder of God’s plan as seen in creation.
Now when we see these two symbols, angel and star, as bookending the Christmas story I trust you find it interesting but it is also fair to ask “why does it matter?” or “what is the significance of that?” Well I think the answer is foundation to who we are as Christians. It shows us that God has acted and that we respond to what God has done. Yes God has acted. Our Epistle reflects on this. It speaks of the mystery of the revelation of Jesus. Of how that shows God’s care for creation and of how we are called to a new way of life. This is our foundation as Christians, that God walks with us in our lives, and that God walks with all of creation. This relationship calls us to respond and reflecting upon today, we respond like the shepherds and the magi. The shepherds told, with joy, what they had heard and they also put fear aside. The magi journeyed to the child, gave gifts and paid homage. This is not a bad model for Christian life. To declare with joy what we have experienced in our faith, to put the fears of our life behind us, to seek out our saviour and offer praise and gifts when we meet him. If we lived like that I think we would all grow in our journey’s of faith.
As we begin 2019 I would comment this thought and the experience of the shepherds and magi to all of us. When I begin a new year I usually take a look at things and touch on a few areas of improvement. Now it’s not so much making big grand formal new year’s resolutions but rather more about fine tuning life a little. I do this with my spiritual walk as well and a lot has to do with being more disciplined in prayer and scripture reading. This sort of fits my protestant sensibilities that I need to respond faithfully to God. Almost an old fashioned protestant work-ethic approach to faith. I think the action of the shepherds and magi calls me to more. They responded with their whole being to what God has done. They responded with joy, with faithfulness, with worship and devotion. It truly is inspirational. I think it’s along the lines with scripture calling us to live in Christ. That life in Christ is not simply doing the right thing and focusing on God a little but rather the life in Christ, or the life in the spirit is about immersing oneself in the mystery Christ and in the revelation of all God has done. So as we begin another year, I would have us all ask ourselves “how can I respond like the shepherds and the magi?”
Thanks be to God. Amen.