Monday, January 4, 2010

Feast of the Epiphany

The story of the Magi/3 Kings is as real to many of us as the story of Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs. But I ask you to come with me, and read it anew. Put yourself in the story; meditate on it. I would like to invite you in particular to put yourself in Joseph's place.

Luke 2:4-7 reads:
4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.
He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,
and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

First, Joseph has to bring his pregnant fiancee on the long trip to Bethlehem, most likely on a donkey. He tried to make her comfortable, but when a woman is 8-9 months pregnant, that is quite an unlikely achievement. Then, when they arrive, he cannot find any room for them at a hotel. He must have felt like such a failure! We think of this cute manger scene that little children replicate for us, but can you imagine being the husband of a young woman have a baby in a stable?! How humiliating! We are not told how he reacted, but at the very least he must have been quite sad that he couldn't offer Mary a better place to give birth.

But then...

1After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem
2and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."
3When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born.
5"In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written: 6" 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'"
7Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.
8He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."
9After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.
When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.
11On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

(Matthew 2:1-12)

Imagine that! Here are Mary, Joseph and their newborn son, in the poorest of circumstances, rejected by all the establishments, when suddenly caravans of people and gifts arrive to worship their child! Remember - they came to worship a king. They did not come with a little box of gold and a little box of frankincese. They came to worship a king! Caravans followed them as they presented gifts worthy of a king.

Now, imagine Joseph's reaction. I imagine he heard God's voice deep in his heart, reassuring him that he was not a failure, and that God's hand was guiding and protecting him. I imagine he was also bewildered. "I knew this child was special, but this? Who is this child, really? And who am I to be his father?" Indeed, when a few days later Herod ordered all the babies to be killed, for fear of someone overthrowing him, it was much easier to flee unnoticed from a stable than from a hotel.

My message to you is this: when it seems like people are rejecting you, scorning you and not giving you your rightful place, remember the baby Jesus. Even if He needs to bring people from a distant land to provide for you, God will meet all of your needs, according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:19). He will position you in the place where you can shine and give glory to God, not on your own merits, but on the merits of His beloved Son, Jesus. So take your eyes off of your circumstances and yourself, and keep your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith (Heb 12:2). Love Him, worship Him, give Him your very best, and watch as He meets all of your needs and satisfies all of your desires (Psalm 103).

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