Sunday Devotion: 5 January 2020, Second Sunday after Christmas
What does this mean?
Written by clergy and lay people across our Diocesan community, ‘Sunday Devotions’ is a column of short reflections based on a Lectionary reading of the day, suitable for small group discussion or personal use.
Main readings: Isaiah 60.1-6; Psalm 72.1-7, 10-14; Ephesians 3.1-12; Matthew 2.1-12
Supplementary readings: Psalm 104.11-25; Ephesians 1.1-16; Psalm 87; Numbers 24.12-17a; Matthew 12.14-23
“A multitude of camels shall cover you.” (Isaiah 60.6a)
Some years ago, I received a mysterious present. Even after I unwrapped it, it remained a mystery. It came from Japan and was perhaps a vase, so I used it for dried flowers.
Presents make sense to those who give them, but sometimes need further ‘unpacking’. I wonder what sense Mary and Joseph would have made of the gold, frankincense and myrrh (in Matthew echoing Isaiah 60)? They are not typical presents for a child, and even with imaginative explanations they are still mysterious gifts! At least the magi did not give the gift of a multitude of camels, though in some times and places and cultures that would have been an appropriate and generous gift. In Biblical times, camels were highly prized and valuable and such a gift would be a sign of the giver wanting to honour the receiver.
The Epiphany is a celebration of more than the magi and the gifts. It is a reminder that the birth of Jesus was good news for ALL people – Jews, Gentiles, everyone! For people who were not looking for a Messiah (and still are not), for people without a background in the Jewish experience of God (which is most of us today), and for people who may not recognise that there is a space in their lives, the birth of Jesus is a gift which needs unpacking and explaining. It is a mystery, a present to be unpacked AND a wonderful present which is life-giving.
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