First Sunday of Epiphany Matthew 2 Wise Men

Matthew 2.1-12

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:  6 “And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.” 

7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared.8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’ 9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Israel is a kingly and royal people. All the nations of the earth will see this and come to Israel for leadership and judgment. Israel will provide this government when Israel follows the Lord his God. 

They were overwhelmed with joy….   They knelt down and paid him homage… They offered him gifts…

We worship Christ. The response that recognises him truthfully is this worship of him. These kings worship this king and so make him their overlord. Their homage declares him king of kings. In our worship we offer the Lord gifts. The gifts we offer are the gifts we have received from him. We show him how we have used the blessings and resources he has given us. 

We worship the king, here at this altar. We stand behind the wise men, doing as they do. This worship makes us wise. Understanding and wisdom follow from these actions we make in homage. When we acknowledge that we are standing here before the Lord, creation begins to open itself to us. With this holiness come both life and truth. As result of this our people were able to develop a greater understanding of the world around them. When theology, the Christian confession of God, was made the fundamental starting point, that is when theology became queen of the sciences, all sorts of other sciences became possible, and our knowledge and understanding of creation and our place and vocation in it. We understood that we have been appointed kings and stewards, responsible to the Lord for the good management of creation so that it should achieve the great flourishing of which it is capable.

Opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh

These are gifts that communicate eternity. God, frankincense, and myrrh do not corrupt and so prevent whatever they are mixed into from rotting. These gifts show us that these kings recognised that this child is not king for a while, as they are, but king for all time, the king whom time will never impact upon, so his kingdom will not be replaced by another. These gifts communicate eternity. Knowledge has to do with what is unchangingly true, and therefore with eternity. For time leaches away everything that is not eternal, and make everything we were able to say about it, for as the forces of time wear away at it, whatever it was, it is no longer. Real knowledge is knowledge of what is changelessly true and so it is knowledge of eternity. This is what these kings communicate to us with their gifts.   God makes man immune to change and decay. He who had his beginning in time remains mortal, but immortality pervades him. Eternity has soaked into him, so what is mortal is overcome by what is immortal.