Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
This morning, we are celebrating the Epiphany, the time when we tell the story of the Magi. But who were the Magi? Well, they were most likely astrologers, people who watched the stars and recorded what they saw. History has made them kings, so we sing, “We Three Kings.” But in the Bible, there is not any mention of these people being kings - or that there were only three of them.
Epiphany is defined in the dictionary as a moment in which you suddenly see or understand something in a new or very clear way, I guess like an “aha” moment. When I have those moments, it’s usually because I just did something really stupid - like trying to pick up French fries right out of the oven, or expecting my iron to work when it’s not plugged in.
The Magi had such a moment when they saw Jesus - but in a good way! By the way, isn’t it a little odd that these three traveled to Israel in the first place? Why would they be interested in seeing this new king? He wasn’t their king. They weren’t Israelites, but astronomers and magicians! They knew they were traveling to see a newborn king. They had seen the star in the East, and they knew that meant a new king had been born - not just any king, but a mighty king to rule all Israel. What they didn’t know was exactly where this king was.
So they followed the star to Jerusalem, the center of Israel. Surely the baby king would be in Herod’s palace. But when they asked Herod about the new king, he was afraid. He gathered all the priests and scribes, and asked them about this. They told Herod that the king the Magi sought was the one mentioned in Scripture from the prophet, Micah. “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 my people Israel.”
When Herod told the Magi what the priests and scribes said, they must have been confused. Bethlehem was just a small village - not exactly a place for a king to be born! But off they went, to follow the star to Bethlehem. Then the star finally stopped. They were excited to see this new king. I wonder what they thought when they saw Mary, Joseph and Jesus - a poor family in a little village out in the middle of nowhere. All we know is that they fell down and worshiped him. This was their “aha” moment, their epiphany, when they saw that Jesus was not just an ordinary child, nor was he just an ordinary king.
So what did they see that made them fall down and worship? What do we see when we look at Jesus that brings us here every Sunday to worship? What was revealed to the three Magi was God in human form, “Immanuel, God with us.”
Another meaning for Epiphany is light. Jesus brings the light of God’s love into the world. The Gospel of John put it this way, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” That’s what the Magi saw, when they looked at Jesus. Pretty amazing. God didn’t send Jesus to the places of power. He wasn’t born in a palace, but in a stable. His first visitors were not exactly the V.I.P.’s of Israel - shepherds in from tending their sheep, and three astronomers from another country.
Soon after he was born, his family had to flee the country because Herod was trying to kill Jesus. What is God trying to tell us by giving his Son this kind of start in life? Maybe God wants us to understand that God’s love isn’t about power. God’s love isn’t about who has the most money or influence. God’s love is about being in relationship. God’s love is about forgiveness and grace.
God doesn’t want to punish us or condemn us. God wants to love us. How better for God to show us love than to become one of us, to live the lives we live. Lives full of joy and pain, love, and suffering. That is the light which came into the world, the light of love. God didn’t keep that light from us. God shared it with everyone. And now that we have had our Epiphany, our “aha” moment, it’s time for us to share that light in our own lives. That’s what we learn when we gather here on Sunday - we learn that God’s love is for everyone, and we are called to share it with everyone. Amen.