Epiphany re-blog

by Richard on January 5, 2018

Epiphany is the day in the church calendar when by tradition the visit of the Magi is remembered. These strange visitors with their even stranger gifts - (”Quick - throw it in the trough!”) - are such an integral part of the Nativity story that it’s easy to forget how odd they are.

Matthew’s gospel is undeniably the most obviously Jewish of the 4, and the way he tells the nativity story is to present Jesus as the fulfillment of the promises made specifically to Israel. His genealogy is traced through David to Abraham in 3 phases of 14 generations. (Matthew is sure to mean something by these numbers, but we needn’t be detained by what that meaning might have been.) The story recalls several themes from the story of the Israelite nation - Joseph’s dream, a ruler who kills children, an infant protected, a return to the Promised Land. Almost every event is linked to some quotation from the Hebrew scriptures. As the story of Jesus unfolds, he is clearly presented as the successor to Moses, a new and greater lawgiver.

And it is into this story that Matthew injects a group of pagans from far away. Not merely foreigners, but very definitely followers of some other faith (were they Zoroastrians?), and worse still practisers of astrology, and yet it was these outsiders who, Matthew says were the first to worship the infant Jesus. His significance is acknowledged and proclaimed by these pagans from abroad. Jerusalem is in uproar. It is the outsiders who worship.

Of course it is true that one shouldn’t erect a theology on one piece of gospel narrative. But this story is surely a corrective to any tendency to merely dismiss out of hand those who follow a faith other than Christianity. At the very least, it should compell us to listen to those whose faith is different from ours with the utmost attention and respect.

God has spoken through them before, and will no doubt do so again and again.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>