January 6, 2008

Isaiah 60:1-6 Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14Ephesians 3:1-12Matthew 2:1-12 The story of the magi’s visit to the young boy Jesus in Bethlehem is the classic Epiphany story. We often sneak the wise men into the Christmas story in December, but its proper place is here: after the birth of the child, after the shepherds have returned home, after the angels have receded into the sky. Once again, of course, I should remind you that the shepherds and the angels belong to Luke’s story, and the magi are Matthew’s. The birth narratives should not be read as historical accounts of factual events. So we don’t have to worry about why the Holy Family who had travelled to Bethlehem for a census (in Luke’s account) are still there a few years later (in Matthew’s account) and living in a house. Chances are that Jesus was really born in Nazareth, the Galilean town where he grew up and began his ministry. But both Matthew and Luke come up with reasons for his birth to take place in Bethlehem, the city of David. It’s a great way to show that Jesus is the predicted Messiah, in the family line of David, born in David’s town. Likewise, there is no historical reason to believe that Gentile astrologers came looking for Jesus to worship him as a little child in Bethlehem. My guess is that no one knew that there was anything particularly special about Jesus until he began his ministry as a young man. But the story … Read more »

January 6, 2013

Isaiah 60:1-6 Matthew 2:1-12 Several times over the Christmas Season, I found myself in conversations about why we celebrate Christmas when we do. One person commented, “Every day is Christmas for me. We don’t know what time of year Jesus was born, do we? So I can celebrate his birth all through the year.” I certainly couldn’t dispute that! We really have no idea when Jesus was born, either what date or season, or even exactly what year. What the Christian Church has done is to choose a birthday for Jesus. We have chosen a time of year to celebrate and give thanks for the birth of Christ, for God’s incarnation among us. The probable reason for the selection of December 25th was to coincide with pagan festivals that were being held around the time of the Winter Solstice. I can imagine the Christian leaders speculating… Perhaps if we celebrate a mass for Christ at that time, Christians will be less inclined to get caught up in those other pagan celebrations. There’s good sense in that reasoning. And yet, there are other good reasons for celebrating the incarnation at the end of December. As John’s Gospel proclaims, Jesus is the Light of the World. And so we celebrate his coming at the darkest, coldest time of the year, when the days are so short and we are longing for light. Many religious traditions do something similar. Jewish people, for example, celebrate the miracle of light with Hanukkah, an eight-day holiday … Read more »

January 5, 2014

Isaiah 60:1-6 Matthew 2:1-12 “Shiny Happy People!” As I was reading commentaries on the passage from Isaiah 60 this week, a pop song from the 90’s started running through my head: “Shiny happy people.” Do you remember that lively song by the band REM? As I read and reflected on the prophet’s command to the people of Judah to “Arise, shine, for your light has come,” I couldn’t get the “Shiny happy people” song out of my head, so I gave in to it and looked up the video on YouTube. It began with an old man riding a stationary bicycle in a dreary-looking room, and then on the other side of the wall the band – dressed in bright happy colours in front of a colourful mural of similarly happy-looking people – began to play, and sing, and dance. It was carefree, full of smiles, and by the end of the song the band was surrounded by people dancing, and laughing, and having a great time. Meanwhile, the old man has gotten off his bicycle, and he stands watching the shiny happy people as they dance and sing. He doesn’t exactly look happy, but somewhat curious about what is happening before his eyes. I don’t know what the band intended to say with their video. Perhaps it was a hope that the grumpy old men of the world would lighten up and join in the party. Perhaps it was a subtle commentary on those who laugh, and dance, and … Read more »