Seeking Signs of God

The Nazareth Page  - A gospel meditation for your home

January 5, 2020 – The Epiphany of the Lord - Matthew 2:1-12

No one would ever call Jesus a “show off.” But today’s feast, the Epiphany, is exactly about Jesus showing off. The point is that in God’s wisdom it was important that we humans have a way to know God. God wants us to know that God exists, that God created the universe and remains part of that creation. Finally, God wants us to know that God loves us much more than we can imagine. For us to know this, God seeded Creation with clues about God. The biggest clue, of course, was the Incarnation, God taking human form in the person of Jesus Christ. Seeing Jesus was, in God’s Plan, for seeing God.

Therefore, Jesus had to appear at a particular time and in a specific place. And the historical manifestation of God in Jesus (that’s what the word epiphany means) is what we commemorate today. In a sense, we could say this was God’s “coming out” into the world. And to emphasize the global nature of God’s appearance, Matthew tells us about the visit of three magi, or as they are commonly called, three wise men. (They were not three kings, despite the well-known hymn.) In those days, they would be thought of as coming from the known ends of the earth.

Some translations call them astrologers, That’s misleading. To be more accurate, they were more like what we call “scientists.” They came from an area known for its early scientific investigations. In today’s world we would call then astronomers or cosmologists. They were especially interested in the stars above. So, it was not outside possibilities that Matthew describes them as God leading them to Jesus by a star. Again, Jesus came to be seen and known, especially in his public life many years later when, through word and deed, we would gain a fuller understanding of God’s ways with us.

As I mentioned, God seeded the world with clues about God. But we must search for those clues. The whole life of the church is supposed to provide us with these clues through its liturgies, its teachings and its example. So too is each of us. We are “other Christs” for each other. Sometimes we do not live up to our calling. But that’s another story.

One message of today’s feast contains a challenge. It goes something like this. Are we (like the magi) looking for signs of God’s presence among us? Do we even think about God’s presence in those we live with or encounter each day? God may be “appearing” to us every day, but if we are not looking for God there (or anywhere), we won’t see God. Stars (and all creation) are one giant sign of the One who created it. We are encouraged by this feast to continue looking for God’s presence in our world. For God is there!

©David M. Thomas, PhD


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