Sermon Epiphany

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all. I certainly hope your seasonal plans went a little better than mine, which were delayed and then cut short by the recent storms. Getting to and from my parents’ home in Anglesey was a scary journey, with winds and flood and closed roads.

All of this came to mind when I was thinking about what to preach on because if you read the Christmas story, the theme of journeys feature quite strongly.

Indeed throughout the Scriptures we see that God’s people are always called to be on the move and this applies especially to the people in the story of our Lord’s birth who are called to travel in the most difficult of circumstance, more difficult I might add then Storm Frank.

During the variety of nativity plays of the season, we saw Marys and Josephs and Donkeys marching up and down the aisles making the journey to Bethlehem seem like nothing at all. But which of us would dream of undertaking a 100 mile journey when one of you is so heavily pregnant & with no better means of transport than a donkey? Especially with no accommodation pre-booked at journey’s end?

Our crib under the nave altar may look quite cosy under its warm spotlight, but those who have visited Bethlehem will know of the steep stone cut steps and the narrow opening to the cave which is believed to be the birthplace of Our Lord. We shouldn’t let our carols mask the stark reality of Mary & Joseph’s desperation in bringing their special child to birth in a damp, dirty hole in the ground.

And in today’s gospel reading, and in our celebrations today, we have another long and dangerous journey coming to its conclusion as the wise men have travelled following the guiding of a star to worship the new born King and to offer their gifts, gifts so unusual and inappropriate for a baby- reveal their deep understanding of the significance of the child they seek.

It’s a wonderful story that opens up so many possibilities but is tantalising in its lack of detail, which is perhaps why it has been so embellished by artistic imaginations over the passing years.

Such as TS Eliot’s wonderful poem “The journey of the Magi” with its opening lines

“A cold coming we had of it,

Just the worst time of year for a journey

And such a long journey

The ways deep, the weather sharp,

The very dead of winter.”

 

The poem speaks of the Magi’s temptation to turn back, of their regret at swopping their creature comforts- “The summer palaces on slopes, and the silken girls bringing sherbet”- for the stark deprivations of the journey.

“At the end we preferred to travel all night, sleeping in snatches,

with the voices singing in our ears that this as all folly”

If the journey itself wasn’t bad enough, it was made worse by their visit to Herod. “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising & have come to worship him”.

We may question their title as wise men at this stage, is it ever wise to ask a monarch with the murderous paranoia of Herod, ‘where is the child, who is not your own, whose reign will eclipse yours?’

And at journey’s end they are left questioning “were we led all that way for birth or death?”

The Magi’s inadvertent alerting of Herod to the Messiah’s birth leads directly to the Massacre of the Innocents and causes the Holy Family to set out on yet another journey into the unknown, to flee Herod’s violence and live as refugees in Egypt until Herod’s death.

There are so many questions and issues around the Magi that we can barely scratch the surface of what those long ago travellers have to teach us.

But one of them is the message that God is always leading us forwards, often to places and situations where we need to grip our courage and our faith close to us. God is constantly calling us forward to embrace new challenges & new adventures of faith and leading us ever closer to his kingdom.

This goes for the church as well as us as individuals.

As Jesus says later in Matthews gospel, we are to ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness’ to look for Gods Kingdom and all these things will be given to you as well because God will guide you. So our job is to travel with him, and be on the lookout for the next direction to go.

And we can be certain that just as he was present to guide the Holy Family to safety and to lead the Magi to the Christ child, so he will guide and protect us in our journey through life.

So may the courage and obedience of Joseph and Mary in undertaking the task of parenting the child who was the long-awaited Messiah, and may the courage and perseverance of the Wise Men in Journeying so far to seek the child born King of the Jews, inspire and encourage us as we begin this New Year to follow wherever God may lead

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A sermon for Epiphany – 1st Draft

Not the finished product, but its a start.

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Some of you – if you have a good memory – will remember this word – Ubuntu.

It can in part of a story I told about some children in Africa which I told last July, There was an anthropologist who was living and studying the tribe, their customs and behaviours, and as he was leaving he piled up all the sweets and goodies he had left and told the children they would have a race and the winner would get all the goodies, However, instead of all the children racing to the sweets, they all joined hands and went together, and shared out the goodies at the end.

The anthropologist was surprised and asked them why they all went together, when one could have had it all for themselves?

A girl replied, Ubuntu – how can one of us be happy when they others are sad?

How can one of us be happy when the others are sad?

Ubuntu us a term for that humanness, that caring, sharing part of our nature who wants to be in harmony with each other.

And it is a term I’ve been thinking about particularly over these first few days of the New Year.

We all start the New Year with the best intentions. Many make resolutions in the hope that we can make this new year better, fitter, richer, happier. Bit this year feels different from other New Years.

Living and being in such close communities, I don’t think a single one of us can feel unaffected by some of the things that have happened in this area of over these few short days.

Whether it is the loss of young life in a car crash, the effects of the storms what have made so many flee their homes and causing such destruction, the loss of the life washed up on Black Rock Sands, or those others who have lost jobs, and homes and businesses over this season. In community – when one is affected, we are all affected.

Ubuntu – how can one be happy when the others are sad?

For so many in our community, old and young alike – it will be hard for them to see the road ahead with any clarity or where to go next.

Where do you turn to when you feel lost and without direction?

Well…..

The Wise Men turned to the scriptures, for their answer, and the stars for their direction.

We don’t know much about the Magi, thse wise men, the three kings from the orient.

There may have been more than three, we don’t know exactly where exactly where they came from, or when exactly they visited Jesus.

But, in our case, I don’t think the details are important.

What is important is that they made that journey.

They saw the signs, left their familiar surroundings, to a place of uncertainty, and discovered something new and wonderful.

What they found literally changed the direction of their lives.

St Matthew puts it: “They returned home by another way”, The old way, the familiar path no longer worked, they needed a different path, a different way of going forward.

Epiphany is about discovering.

The star the sign they followed to find what they were searching for. The source of salvation.

Our readings are full of references to light.

“Rise up in splendour, Jerusalem” Isaiah cries out, “Your light has come. The glory of the Lord shines upon you.”

There, in those verses, is a sense of being saved, of relief, of deliverance and of hope.

The excitement of the magi comes through in our scriptures, and also I think a sense of relief. We are told: “They were overjoyed at seeing the star”.

For us today, this story is about making the journey – changing direction, going into the unknown, and finding something, or someone to rejoice about.

It’s about finding those signs which will lead us to what we are looking for. Finding them, trusting them and following them.

It’s about what happens to those who are searching and those who encounter Christ.

And whether we realise it or not, its about a kind of conversion.

          It’s about finding another way of walking the journey of life. A way that has been transformed by a sign, by a star, by a light, by Jesus Himself.

Next week we celebrate the baptism of Christ, and swiftly following that we will slip into Ordinary time, the season of Christmas a memory.

But before it does we are asked to do something first.

The season ask us to begin a journey.

To find a sign.

To follow the light.

And then like the wise men, to bring what we have, our gifts and share them – with God and with each other.

As we share in what our community is going through, we can bring our gifts and the spirit of Ubuntu with us.

It may be as simple as a smile to someone you meet in Fox’s or London House.

It might be a tissue – or a panad.

It might be a prayer and a lit candle.

It might be a helping hand with cleaning or repairs –

We are all called to journey personally with God and as a community, and to do that there are certain things we must do.

If you have not made a resolution yet, it is not too late, especially when there is so much need within our community. Use your gift, follow the sign and do what you can for yourself, or community, and the Lord who can to bring us light and salvation.

Amen.

http://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/north-wales-floods-rooftop-rescue-6465775

http://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/north-wales-news/mans-body-found-blackrock-sands-6463716