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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

23 January 2019: Tom Cooper, Reader, St Mary’s Church, Buriton

Epiphany and Afterwards

Recently we celebrated Epiphany (signifying Revelation), that wonderful festival which recalls the visit of the Magi, led by the star, to the infant Christ and his family in Bethlehem. This event is full of meaning for us as Christians, not least because it shows that God’s revelation of Christ’s birth was not just intended for His chosen people but for everyone.

The Magi are ‘from the East’; they are Gentiles. They don’t just observe the star, they set out to find and pay homage to the person whose arrival in the world the star announces, even though they don’t yet know who that person is. And of course that person – Jesus – is the most important person ever to have been born. So this is another message of the story – we need to bother to make the journey, despite all its hardships, and not just be content with knowing.

At the end of the story, Matthew’s Gospel says that ‘having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod’, the Magi ‘left for their own country by another road’. Instead of going back to the hypocrisy and violence that characterised Herod’s worldly court, the Magi take a different path. The visit to Jesus is not the end of the story: it’s what we do afterwards that counts.

What follows Revelation is told, for example, by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians: ‘bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ’. This is our mission as Christians. Of course, we don’t all have to spread the news in the same way. As Rowan Williams has said, ‘Mission is finding out what God is doing, and joining in’. This might encourage us, like the wise men, to think about travelling ‘by another road’ as we try to join in the mission to spread ‘the news of the boundless riches of Christ’.

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