Friday, January 6, 2017

the Epiphany

The story of the Magi is one that continues to be much loved. At a recent children's service I asked the children to name, in order, the people and creatures around the manger. 'The wise men!' someone shouted out excitedly each time. They really seemed to be among the favourite characters in the story. But there is much for us to ponder over in the story of these men and much for us to learn. Here are three simple thoughts that occur to me concerning them. 

The first is that the star that they saw was visible to many, but they were the only ones that followed. Some failed to understand its significance through ignorance; others through a hardness of heart - they had an inkling as to what it meant but simply did not want to know. 
Next, these men whether they were merely magi - wise men or scholars - or the kings of tradition, were busy people with many demands upon their time. Yet they left it all behind to follow a star. They had their priorities in the right order. They understood that all the other things of their life had to take second place to this revelation from God. Finally, the journey they undertook was a dangerous one. Travel in the ancient world was not the easy thing it is today. There were bandits and robbers everywhere and these magi with their treasure chests would have been tempting targets. These men knew the dangers - they would hardly be worthy of the title of 'wise' if they did not know something so basic about the world they lived in - but they traveled anyway. No earthly risk was sufficient to dissuade them.

The lessons for us from these three simple points are obvious enough. Ignorance and hardheartedness, of course, remain problems when it comes to the faith today. Many let their worldly cares get between them and their spiritual duties. And others back away at even the hint of some kind of temporal danger ... even if it is the disapproval of those whose good opinion they should more rightly disdain. 

The children who loved the story so much will not, of course, have thought about the lessons that the magi still teach us. But perhaps they understand what their story offers us intuitively? They were men of courage who left everything and faced great danger in order to follow a star. In an age that is blind to so much that truly matters their clear-sightedness is an example for us all to follow, whether we are child or adult. 

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